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Full text of "Gaelic proverbs and proverbial sayings, with English translations"

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liiniDH AW LEABHAR 5Q 

HALum MacUòid, 



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GAELIC PROVERBS 



PROVERBIAL SAYINGS 



Gaelic 
Proverbs 



AND 



PROVERBIAL SAYINGS 



WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS 



T. D. MACDONALD 

AUTHOR OF "the LORDS OF LOCHABER," "CELTIC DIALECTS,' 

"DÀIN EADAR-THEANGAICHTK," " DÀIN AN AM A CHOGAIDH,' 

*' DÀIN AN DÈ1DH A CHOGAIDH," ETC. 



ENEAS MACKAY 
STIRLING 




K'^^^'' o^ 






Printed in Great Britain by Jamieson & Miinro, Ltd., 40 Craigs. Stirling, 



CONTENTS. 

Faob 

IXTRODUCTIOX, xi. 

PART, 

I. MlSCEI^LANEOUS, 25 

II. Men, Women, Marriage, 67 

III. Weather and Season Lore, Object 

Lessons from Nature, The Deity, 

The Devil, 95 

IV. Land ajn'd Labour, 117 

V. The Fingalians, 133 

VI. St. Columba and Other Saints, 143 

VII. Cla-ns and Clanship, 149 



GAELIC PROVERBS 

AND 

Proverbial Sayings 



INTRODUCTION 



INTRODUCTION 

IN the preface to Henderson's " Proverbs of 
Scotland" it is stated that "few countries 
can lay claim to a more abundant store of 
these pithy sayings than our own ; and no people 
were at one time more attached to the use of 
these significant and figurative laconisms than 
Scotsmen. ' ' On the other hand, there are writers 
who say that the Celtic races were not much 
given to proverbs, and the explanation given is 
that a people gifted with the power of speech, 
like the Celts, are averse to their too frequent 
use. A proverb clinches the argument too 
abruptly, and gives no play to that metaphysical 
science said to be so dear to the heart of every 
Scotsman. The present writer would prefer to 
accept Mr. Henderson's opinion on the matter. 
From personal experience he can say that the 



XU. INTRODUCTION. 

present-day Highlander finds the proverbs very 
useful in conversation, and frequently quotes 
them to good purpose, and very satisfied with 
himself does he look when he can introduce 
some saying or proverb with good effect. The 
Highlander has great regard for authority that 
is dignified by old age and long usage. For 
this reason the proverb has for him a double 
claim for his consideration : (i) its own intrinsic 
worth, and (2) its association with the past 
sages of his race. At the same time it must be 
admitted that we cannot compete with, say, 
the Spaniards, in the number of our proverbs. 
As regards quality we can hold our own, not- 
withstanding the reputed genius of the Spaniards 
for pithy sayings, and the unusual adaptability 
of the Spanish language in the use of them. 

It is said that the proverbs of a people 
** contain the living traits of a peoples' char- 
acter," its grave and its gay sides, and yet the 
definition of a proverb has puzzled men from 
the time of Aristotle to the present day. lyord 
Bacon described proverbs as *' the genius, wit 
and spirit of a nation." lyord John Russell 
defined the proverb as " the wisdom of many 
and the wit of one." Cervantes, the Spaniard, 
is comprehensive but vague when he says that 
the proverb is " a short sentence drawn from 



INTRODUCTION . XUl . 

long experience." Better than any one of these 
is the definition of another Spanish writer, 
Capriano de Valera, where he describes it as 
"a short sentence, sententious and true, long 
since accepted by common consent." By this 
it will be seen that all proverbial sayings in the 
wider sense are not proverbs in the real sense 
of the term. While it is true that " both the 
proverb and the mere saying receive their 
authority and their dignity from the same source, 
that is, old age and long usage, the mere saying 
lacks the terseness, the pungency, and the 
general applicabihty of the true proverb." The 
saying : 

He who runs may read, 

would not be always applicable. Of far more 
general application is the Gaelic proverb which 

says : — 

Is mall a mharchdaicheas 
Am fear a bheachdaicheas. 
He rides slowly who observes. 

" The true proverb is never parochial, it has 
not any local patriotism, caring no more for one 
parish than another. It has neither father 
nor mother, and takes delight in shrouding its 
origin in mystery." Mere sayings, on the other 
hand, are frequently localised, applicable only 



XIV. INTRODUCTION. 

when associated with a particular localit3^ or 
the prototype of a particular individual. It is 
proposed to give selections from both in the 
following pages. 

Matthew Arnold says that the sensibility 
of the Highlander gives him a peculiarly near 
and intimate feeling with nature. This is true; 
the Highlander seems in a special way attracted 
by the secret of natural beauty and natural 
magic ; he feels close to it, he half divines it. 
Behind the visible he sees the invisible ; he 
creates the latter in his mind's eye, his prophetic 
imagination travelling to the unseen beyond 
mountain, and torrent and loch. Science and 
modern thought " tell us of an all-pervading 
order, unchangeable amid the mutations of the 
things that are seen." It is felt by the sensitive 
Celt as a power irresistible and omnipotent, 
governing and controlling all things. The Celtic 
character is made for devotion, and loyalty and 
obedience. He is easily led, but cannot be 
driven. He craves for a leader, one in whom 
he can implicitly trust, and having found him, 
he will follow him to the gates of death. For- 
lorn causes have, as a consequence, found him, 
perhaps too often, their staunchest adherent. 

It is, however, a mistake to suppose, as is 
too often glibly asserted, that he always allows 



INTRODUCTION. XV. 

sentiment to run away with him. He can be 
as practical as most mortals when he likes, and 
many of his proverbs give ample demonstration 
of this, and these particular proverbs show every 
evidence of their having been composed by men 
of humble life. As Sheriff Nicolson says, they 
are the product of the thatched cottages, and 
not of the baronial or academic halls ; poor in 
position, but rich in mother wit, reflecting a 
high moral standard, with an intelligence shrewd 
and searching ; a singular sense of propriety 
and grace, and a distinct sense of humour never 
found among savages and clodhoppers. 
Nature's appeal to him is pointedly illustrated 
in his proverbs. 

There is a beautiful combination of sub- 
stance and humility conveyed to us by the 
following object lesson : — 

Is Ì 'n dias is truime is isle 'chromas a ceann. 
The heaviest ear of corn bends its head the 
lowest. 

while the opposite is aptly portrayed thus : — 

A chuiseag a dh' fhàsas as an òcrach 

'si 's aird' a thogas a ceann. 
The weed that's on the dunghill growiyig 
Will its head he highest showing. 

and there is some fine philosophy in the next : — 



XVI. INTRODUCTION. 

A bheinn is àird' a th'anns an tir, 

'S ann oirr' is trie' a chithear an ceo. 

The highest mountain in the land 

Is oftenest covered with mist. 

The pointed truth in the following is 
thoughtful to a degree : — 

Is sàmhach an obair dol a dholaidh. 

Going to ruin is silent work. 
Truly one might almost think that the noise 
accompanying the mere threats of revolution 
may not be so terrible after all. I^ike the pain 
felt in a part of the human body helping to locate 
the disease, and so leading to its diagnosis, 
and the resulting cure, a noise in the body- 
politic draws an attention that brings remedial 
or counteracting steps, with equally happy 
results. But the process of a silent decay, like 
that of a painless disease, is apt to be undetected 
until too late. 

It has been truly said that " in the eternal 
relations of mankind, and their indestructible 
passions and feelings, the proverbs of all nations 
present a striking uniformity," while " in other 
relations they illustrate the individual char- 
acteristics of the different races. Before letters 
were invented wisdom was abroad in the world. 
Proverbs were the germ of moral and political 
science. Things that marble and brass and 



INTRODUCTION. XVll. 

other devices of human invention have allowed 
to perish, proverbs, floating upon the living 
voices of the people, have perpetuated." 

Paradoxical as it may seem, it has been 
truly said that " there is no surer sign of the oral 
knowledge of a people being on the wane than 
the attempt to secure it from oblivion by collect- 
ing its fragments and printing them in books." 
With the strenuous life of our present-day 
industrial civilisation oral transmission from 
mouth to mouth, "on the living voices of the 
people," ceases to be the rule. To-day, trans- 
mission, incision, and fruition in such matters 
depend upon the written or printed word, 
figure, or date. 

A bhliadhn' a chaidh am bunt at' a 

dhoilaidh. 
The year of the potato famine, 

is not now the epoch from which so many subse- 
quent events are calculated. 

If there is one medium more than another 
that will perpetuate for us the wit and wisdom 
of our forefathers, who belonged to a time when 
mother wit and native shrewdness took the 
place of present-day sharpness, that medium is 
the proverb. 

There are substantial reasons to believe 



XVIU. INTRODUCTION. 

that there is more than the common passions 
and feehngs of mankind to account for the 
similarity of many of our GaeHc proverbs with 
those of other nations. Our Churchmen who 
received their education in the Scots Colleges at 
Madrid, Paris and Rome ; our Scottish soldiers 
of fortune, notably those with the famous 
Gustavus Adolphus ; and in a general way the 
well-known wandering habits of the Scots, in 
the famous days of old, as soldiers, scholars, or 
merchants, would have brought our countrymen 
into contact with the peoples of other countries. 
They easily assimilated with them, they quickly 
learned their language, they appropriated their 
thought, and returning would bring home with 
them a treasure more enduring than silver or 
gold, in the form of foreign culture. 

But deduct these proverbs that are common 
to other peoples, and we still have a considerable 
number that are characteristically Highland ; 
that cannot be understood apart from the 
Highlands and the Highland people. But while 
the bulk of our proverbs are the product of the 
thatched cottages, and not of the baronial halls, 
a considerable number are as evidently the 
product of the better-to-do of the days of old. 
In the Highlands, in the days of the Clan System, 
class distinctions were not so hard and fast as 



INTRODUCTION. XIX. 

they were under the autocracy of Norman and 
Tuetonic feudahsm. Quiet humour, shrewd 
insight, and homely truths with a large measure 
of deductive philosophy are enshrined in the 
proverbs, and it is a pity that along with the 
decline of oral transmission, already referred to, 
all our printed collections are out of print. The 
first of these, known as M'Intosh's Collection, 
appeared in 1785, and it contained 1305 Gaelic 
proverbs and proverbial sayings. A second 
edition appeared in 1819, in which the number 
was increased to 1538, while the late Sheriff 
Nicholson's more pretentious collection, 
published 1882, contained no less than 3900. 
The latter included the whole of M'Intosh's, 
and the additional 2392 indicated. 0\\dng to 
the present cost of production and the consequent 
prohibitive selling price at which it could be 
offered, there is no attempt in this volume to 
equal, much less to improve upon the worthy 
Sheriff's patriotic achievement. But this volume 
is indebted to him to a considerable extent, 
while not always accepting his renderings of 
the original Gaelic, of which there are several 
current variants of some of them. The English 
equivalents adopted are also different in many 
cases. The exhaustive list given in the late 
Dr. Cameron of Brodick's " Reliquiae Celticse " 



XX. INTRODUCTION. 

has also been largely drawn upon, as has also 
Professor Magnus Macl^ean's " L^iterature of the 
Scottish Highlands," and also the original of 
all collections of Gaelic proverbs, that of the 
Rev. Donald Macintosh, already referred to. 
For a few hitherto unpublished proverbs and 
sayings, the writer is indebted to Mr. John N. 
Maclvcod, The Schoolhouse, Kirkhill, and Mr. 
Donald Sinclair, Manchester, both well-known 
workers in the field of Gaelic activities. To 
the Rev. Alex. MacDiarmid, late of Morven, 
the writer is indebted for encouragement and 
advice. 

Out of nearly 4000 Gaelic proverbs and 
proverbial sayings, known as current in the 
Highlands, including native and borrowed, the 
number included here is necessarily limited. 
This is on account of the exigencies of space 
in a volume intended for issue at a popular price. 
For the opportunity to do even this much, 
gratitude must be expressed to Mr. Mackay, 
of the firm of Mr. Bneas Mackay, publishers. 
Stirling, who is worthily upholding his late 
father's zeal in regard to Gaelic or Highland 
book undertakings, which appeal to so widely 
scattered and to not too numerous a constituency. 

Opinions may differ as regards many of the 
proverbs here included, in preference to the 



INTRODUCTION. XXI. 

many others that might have been preferred 
from the large available stock. But — 

Cha dean duine dona ach a dhichioll. 
A poor fellow can do but his best. 

T. D. M. 
February, 1926. 



PART I. 

MISCEI.I/ANEOUS. 



MISCKI^IyANEOUS. 

1 Anail a Ghaidheil, air a mhullach ! 

The Gael's breathing place — on the stimmit I 

2 Abair ach beagan is abair gu math e. 
'^Say but little and say it well. 

3 Abair sin, nuair a chaitheas tu cruacli 

mhòine comhla ris. 
Say that, when you have spent a stack of 
peats along with it. 

4 A bhliadhn' is gainne a mhin, 
Dean fuine mliòr aineamh. 
During the year when meal is scarce 
Let big bakings be few. 

5 A'chungaidh leighis is goirte, 
'Si is moth' tha deaneanih feum. 

The medicine [or liniment) that hurts the most 
Is generally the best healer. 

6 A cur suas inisg, sa bun aig a bhaile. 
Spreading a fama, and its root at home. 

7 A ghaoth ag iarraidh na'm port. 
The wind seeking the harbours. 

8 A h-mle cù air a chù choimheach. 
All dogs down on the strange dog. 

25 



26 GAKWC PROVERBS. 

9 A sgaoladh na'n sguab 's a trusadh na'n 
siobag. 
Scattering the sheaves and gathering the 
straws. 

10 Aithnichear an leomhan air scriob de 

iongann. 
The lion is known hy the scratch of his claw. 

11 An ràmh is fhaisg air laimh, iomair leis. 
The oar that's nearest at hand, row with it. 

12 An neach nach cinn na chadal, 
Cha chinn e na dhuisg. 

He who will not prosper in his sleep. 
Will not prosper when awake. 

13 A mheud 'sa gheibh thu gu math, 
Se'n lughad a gheibh thu de 'n olc. 
The more you get of what's good, 
The less you will get of what's bad. 

14 Am fear is fliuche, rachadh e do'n tobair. 
He who is wettest, let him go to the well. 

15 An luigh nach fhaighear cha'n ì a chobhras. 
The herb that cannot be found will not give 

relief. 

16 A taomadh na mara le cliabh. 
Bailing the sea with a creel. 

17 A h-uile rud ach an rud bu choir. 
Everything but the right thing. 

18 Adhaircean fada air a chrodh a bhios anns a 

cheò. 
Long horns on the cattle that are seen through 
the mist. 



MISCEr<I.ANEOUS. 27 

19 Air gnothaich na cuthaig. 
On the cuckoo's business. 

Al. — ^A chuir a ruith na cuthaig. 

Sent to chase the cuckoo. 
S.P. — A gowk's errand. 

20 An ceòl air feadJi na fidhle 
The music throughout the fiddle. 

21 An làmh a bheir 'si a gheibh, 
Mar a d'thugar do dhroch dhuin' e. 

The hand that gives is the hand that will 

receive, 
Except when given to a had man. 

22 Am fear is fhaide chaidh bho'n bhaile, 
Chual e'n ceòl bu mhilse leis nuair thill e 

dhachaidh. 
Who farthest away e'er did roam 
Heard the sweetest music on returning home. 

2'3 A lion beag is bheagan, mar a dh' ith an 
cat an t-iasg. 
Little by little, as the cat eat the fish. 

24 An rud a nithear gu math, 

chithear a bhuil. 
What is well done will be shown by restdts 

25 A chuid de Fhlaitheanas dha. 
His share of Paradise to him. 

" Flaitheanas," according to our etomologists, is from 
" Flath Innis," " The Isle of Heroes," the heaven of Celtic 
Mythology. Here the souls of the brave (none other were 
deserving), went for eternal and blissful repose, at the end 
of their warrior-careers. Cowardice was deemed a sin 
that barred the guilty from entering that coveted place. 
The other place, in those days, was not the brimstone-fueled 



28 GAEI.IC PROVERBS. 

fire of later beliefs, but a desolated area of ice aud snow ; 
cold, not heat, was the meted punishment. 

26 Am facal a thig a Ifrinn — 

Se a gheibh, ma 's e 's mo bheir. 
The message from hell — 
Give to the highest bidder. 

27 An rud a theid fad o'n t-sùil 
Thèid e fad o'n chridhe. 
What goes far from the eye 
Will go far from the heart. 

E.P. — Out of sight out of mind. 
But even proverbs may be mistaken sometimes, as for 
instance : — 

" Kind eyes may speak the heart's desire, 
When heart for heart doth heat, 
But fond hearts will commimicate 
When the eyes cannot meet." 

38 An turadh, an t-anmoch, am muir-làn, 's 
an Dòmhnach. 

Fair weather, the evening, high water, and 
the Sabbath. 
Does this imply a choice of circumstances ? 

29 An uair a bhios sinn ri orach 
Bidheadhmaid ri orach ; 
'S nuair a bhios sinn ri maorach, 
Bidheadhmaid ri maorach. 
When we are seeking gold, let us be seeking 

gold ; 
And when we are seeking bait let us be seeking 
bait. 

E.P. — One thing at a time, and everything in its 
own time. 



MISCHLI^ANEOUS. 29 

30 An uair a chluinneas tu sgeul gun dreach 

na creid i. 
When you hear a tale that is not pleasant, do 
not believe it. 

This means that one should turn a deaf ear to 
scandal mongering. 

31 Am fear nach gheidh na h-airm 'nam na 

sith, 
Cha bhi iad aige 'n am a chogaidli. 
Who keeps not his arms in times of peace, 
Will have no arms in times of war. 

32 An car a h' anns an t-seana mliaide, 
Is duilich a thoirt as. 
Straightening the bend in old wood 

Is a difficult job. 

33 Air rèir do mheas ort fliein ^ 
'S ann a mheasas each thu. 

According as thou esteemest thyself 
Others will esteem thee. 

34 Am boll 'air an sgillinn 
Is gun an sgillinn ann. 
The boll {of meal) at a penny 
And no penny in hand. 

35 A eheud sgeul air fear an taiglie, 
Is sgeul gu lath' air an aoidh. 
The first story from the host, 

And tales till morning from the guest. 

This one recalls old Highland manners and 
customs, with an " Arabian Nights " atmos- 
phere about them. 



30 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

36 Am fear a bhios fad aig an aiseig 
Gheibh e thairis uaireigin. 

He that waits long at the jerry 
Will get across sometime. 

E.P. — Everything comes to him that waits. 

37 Am fear nach seall roimhe 
Seallaidh e as a dheigh. 

He who will not look before him 
Will look behind him. 

38 An triuir nach fuiling an cniodachadli, 
Seann bhean, cearc, agus caora. 

Three that won't bear caressing, 

An old woman, a hen, and a sheep. 

39 A bheairt sin a bhios cearr, 

'Se foighidinn is fhear a dheanamh ris. 
The loom {or engine) that has gone wrong 
Patience is best for putting it right. 

40 An ràthad fada glan, is an ràthad goirid 

salach. 
The long clean road, and the short dirty road. 
The latter is taken by those who are in a hurry to 
get rich, irrespective of the means adopted. 

41 A bhò is miosa 'th' anns a bhuaile 
'Si is cruaidh ni gèum. 

The worst cow in the fold 
Lows the loudest. 

42 An rud nach gabh leasachadh, 
'S fheudar cur suas leis. 

What cannot be helped 
Must be put up with. 

E.P. — Crying over spilt milk, etc. 



MISCELLANEOUS. 31 

43 An ni 's an teid dàil theid dearmaid. 
What is delayed will he forgotten. 

44 An rud is fhiach a ghabhail, 's fhiach e 

iarraidh. 
// it is worth taking, it is worth asking for. 

45 An rud a thig gu dona falbhaidh e leis a 

ghaoith. 
What is got by guile will disappear with the 
wind. 

46 A mire ri cuilein, cha sgur e gus an sgal e. 
Playing with a pup ends in a howl. 

47 Be sin an conadh a chuir do 'n choille. 
That were sending fuel to the wood. 

E.P. — Sending coals to Newcastle. 

48 Bu mhath an sgàthan sùil caraid. 

A friend's eye is a good looking-glass. 

49 Buinidh urram do'n aois. 
Honour belongs to old age. 

50 Bheir an èigin air rud-eigin a dheanamh. 
Necessity will get something done. 

E.P. — Necessity is the mother of invention. 

51 Bheirear comhairle seachad ach cha toirear 

giùlan. 
Council can be given, hut not conduct. 

52 Bheir duine beath' air èigin, ach cha toir 

e rath air èigin. 
A man may force a livelihood, but he cannot 
force fortune. 



32 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

53 Bheir aon fhear each gu uisge 
Ach cha toir a dhà-dheug air òl. 

One man can lead a horse to the water, 
But twelve cannot make it drink. 
Ae man may lead a horse to the water, 
But ane and twenty winna gar him drink. 

— Allan Ramsay's Proverbs. 

54 Bior a d' dhòrn na fàisg ; 
Easbhuidheachd ri d' namtiaid na ruisg ; 
Ri gearradh-sgian a d' fheol na èisd ; 
Beisd nimheil ri d' bheò na duisg. 

A thorn in your grasp, do not squeeze ; 
Thy wants to thine enemy do not hare ; 
The dagger's point to your flesh do not hear ; 
A venomous reptile do not rouse. 

55 Bu mhath impidh a choilicli mu shiol a 

thoirt do na cearcan. 
Well was the cock's petition for corn for the 
hens 

56 Be sin im a chuir do thaigh àraich. 

That were sending butter to the farmhouse. 

57 Bithidh bean-mliuinntir aig an fheannaig 

's an Fhoghar, 
The crow has her maid-servant at harvest time. 

58 Beiridh caora dhubh uan geal. 
A black ewe may have a white lamb. 

59 Beus na tuath, far am bithear se nithear. 
The manners of the folk where thou art thou 

must adopt. 
E.P. — When in Rome do as the Romans do. 



MISCELLANEOUS. 33 

60 Balach, is balgaire tighearna, 
dithis nach coir a leigeil leòtha. 
A conceited fellow and a laird's tyke 
Two who should not be allowed their own way. 

i(6i)Buail am balach air a charbad, 
Is buail am balgair air a shròin. 
Strike the knave on the neck, 
And knock the tyke on the nose. 

62 Is fhearr a bhi sàmhach na droch dhàn a 

ghabhail. 
Better he silent than sing a had song. 

63 Bithidh sonas an lorg na caitheamh. 

Felicity follows generosity. 

64 Bhiodh sonas aig an strodhaire 
Na'm faigheadh e mar a chaitheadh e. 
The squanderer would be happy were he to 

get as he squandered. 

65 Bithidh cron duine cho mòr ri beinn mas 

leir dha fhèin e. 
A mans faults will be as large as a mountain 
ere he himself sees them. 

66 Bithidh na gabhair bodhair 's an fhoghar. 
The goats will be deaf at harvest time. 

E.P. — There are none so deaf as those who tejill not 
hear. 

67 Brisidh an teanga bhog an cneath. 
A smooth tongue will blunt wrath. 

E.P. — A soft answer turneth away wrath. 

— Solomon. 

68 Bithidh an osnaich dheireanach cràidhteach. 
The last sigh will be painful. 

c 



34 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

69 Biodh earlas meirleach agad air gach neach, 
Ach na dean meirleach de neach idir. 
Have the caution of a thief over every one, 
But make no one a thief. 

70 Bha iasad ga ghabhail 's ga thoirt riamh air 

feadh an t-saoghal. 

Borrowing and lending have always been 
world-wide habits. 

71 B' olc-an-airidh gun deanadh aimsir thioram 

dolaidh. 
'Twere a pity that dry zueather should do harm. 

72 Bòidheach, cha'n ann dàicheil. 

Pretty, 7iot plausable. 

73 Beiridh am beag trie air a mhòr ainmig. 
The little frequent will overtake the infrequent 

large. 

74 B'i sin reul 's an oidhche dlioilleir. 
That were a star on a dark night. 

75 B'fhearr a bhi gun bhreith na bhi gun 

teagasg. 
Better be without beiiig than without instruc- 
tion. 

76 B'fhearr gun tòiseachadh na sguir gun 

chriochnachadh. 
Better not to begin than stop without finishing. 

yy Bheir eu-dochas misneachd don ghealtair. 
Desperation will give courage to a coward. 

78 Bidh an ùbhal is fhearr air a mheangan is 
àirde. 
The best apple will be on the highest bough. 



MISCELI.ANEOUS. 35 

79 Clia bhi am bochd-soghail saoibhir. 

The luxurious poor will not be rich. 
An apt companion to the above is : — 
So Cha bhi aon duine crionna 

'A measg mi lie amadan. 

There will not he one wise man 

Among a thousand fools. 

8 1 Cha tig as a phoit ach an toit a bhios innte. 
No fumes from the pot, hut from what it 

contains. 

82 Cha bhi luathas agus grinneas an cuideachd 

a' chèile. 
Quick and fine don't combine. 

^2> Cha d'thug gaol luath 
Nach d'thug fuath clis. 
Quick to love, quick to hate. 

84 Cha do chuir a ghuallainn ris q 
Nach do chuir tùr thairis. u^r^- , 
None ever set his shoulder to 

That did not what he sought to do. 

85 Cha toir an uaisle goil air a phoit. 

Gentility will not boil the pot. 

86 " Cha'n eil mi na m' sgoileir, 's cha'n àill 

leam a bhi," 
Ma'n d'thuairt a mhadadh-ruadh ris a 

mhadadh-allaidh. 
" / am not a scholar, and don't wish to be," 

As the fox said to the wolf. 

There are several versions of the stor}- from which the 
above saying originated. Campbell's " West Highland 
Tales," and Nicholson give slightly different versions. 



> 



36 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

The following is one : — ^The fox and the wolf, walking 
together, came upon an ass quietly grazing in a meadow. 
The fox pointed out an inscription on one of the ass's hind 
hoofs, and, addressing the wolf, said : "Go you and read 
that, you are a scholar and I am not." The wolf, flattered 
by the request, went proudly forward, and coming too close 
to the ass, got knocked in the head, leaving the fox to 
enjoy their common spoil. 

87 Cha'n i a mliuc is sàimliche 
Is lugh a dh'itheas de'n drabh. 

It is not the quietest sow that eats the least. 

88 Ceud mille fàilte. 

A hundred thousand welcomes. 

89 Cha robh naigheachd mhòr riamh 
Nach robh na chall do dhuin'-eigin. 
There never was great news 

But was a loss to somebody. 
Rather the opposite of the English proverb, which says : 
" 'Tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good." But 
the import is the same in both. 

90 Chaidh theab le creag, 

Is theab nach deachaidh. 
" Almost " went over a rock, 
And almost didn't. 

91 Cha'n aithnich thu duine 
Gus am bi do ghnothaich ris. 
You will never know a man, 
Until you do business with him. 

92 Cha'n fhiach gille gun char, 
'S cha'n fhiach gille nan ear. 

The man without a turn is worthless, 
And the man of many turns is worthless. 
The man of many turns implies a " twister." 



MISCEl.I,ANEOUS. 37 

93 Cha'n eil mòran lochd 's an crldh a bhios 

a gabhail òran. 
There is not much guile in the heart that is 
aye singing songs. 

94 Cha'n eil ùaill an aghaidh tairbh. 
Pride is not against profit. 

95 Cha'n eil bàs fir gun ghràs fir. 

There is no man's death without another 
mans gain. 

96 Cha sheas càirdeas air a lèth-chois. 
Friendship will not stand on one leg. 

97 Coin bhadhail is clann dhaoin eile ! 
Stray dogs and other people s children ! 

98 Cha'n fheum an ti a shealbhaicheas an 

toradh am blàth a mhilleadh. 
He who would enjoy the fruit must not spoil 
the blossom. 

99 Cha'n fhiach bròn a ghnàth, 

'S cha 'n fhiach ceòl a ghnàth. 

Sorrowing always is not good, 

And music {mirth) always is not good. 

100 Cha cheòl do dhuin' a bhròn nil' aithris. 
It is no music to a man to recite all his woe. 

CJ loi Cha toir muir no mònadh a chuid bho 

dhuine sona, / 

.j^'^ Ach cha ghleidh duine dona allt. f 

'Neither main nor mountain can deprive a 

prosperous man of his possessions, 
But the unfortunate man cannot retain a 
rivulet. 



38 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

102 Cha do bhris deagh urram ceann duine rianili, 
Agus is mòr-am-beud a bhi uair 's am bitli 

as aonais. 
Due civility never broke a man's head, 
And great the pity to he at any time without it. 

103 Cha chuirear gad air gealladh. 

A promise can never he tied [or tethered.) 

104 Cha'n eil fealladh ann cho mòr ris an 

gealladh gun choimhlionadh. 
There is no deceit so great as a promise u 11 f til- 
filled. 

105 Cluinnidh am bodhar fuaim an airgead. 
The deaf will hear the clink of money. 

106 Cha dean cridh misgeach breug. 
The inebriated heart will not lie. 

107 Cha robh na sgeulaiche nach robh breugach. 
There ne'er was a tale-bearer hut z&as un- 
truthful. 

108 Cha'n uaisle duine na cheird. <^- *^(?'f ^f3. 
No man is above his trade. 

The tradition. associated with the above is that, when 
Alastair MacColla (Alexander MacDonald), the Great 
Montrose's principal lieutenant, foutid himself pent up with 
a handful of followers, surrounded by the Covenanters, a 
tinker of the name of Stewart, from Athol, made his appear- 
ance among MacDonald's men, and with his claymore 
hewed down the Covenanters till but few were left. Mac- 
Donald, astonished at the timely succour and the successful 
onslaught of the unknown warrior, bade him be called to 
his presence after the fray, and asked him who and what he 
was. The tinker modestly replied that he was but a tinker, 
and hardly deserved to be named among men, far less 



MISCEIJ.ANEOUS. 39 

among such brave men as were then present. MacDonald, 
turning round to bis followers, proclaimed tbe beroic 
tinker's praise, citing tbe words quoted, and wbicb are 
now a proverb, as above. 

109 Cuiridh aon bheart as an duine gu lorn, is 
gun bhonn fo cheill. 
Is cuiridh heart eil' e ann, ach a ghahhail 

na am fein. 
One hapless act may undo a man, 
And one timely one will re-establish him. 

no Cumaidh a mhuc a foil fhein glan. 
The pig will keep its own stye clean. 

111 Cha toill iarratas achmhasan. 
A request merits no reproof. 

1 12 Cha bhi fuachd air ualachan air fuaraid an 

làtha. 
The coxcomb feels no cold no matter how cold 
the day. 

113 Cha mhisde sgeul mhath aithris da uair. 

A good tale is not the worse of being twice told. 

114 Ceannaich mar t-fheum, 
Is reic mar's àill leat. 

Buy according to your needs, 
And sell as you may desire. 

115 Cha deanar buanachd gun chall. 
There is no profit without loss. 

116 Cha d' dhùin dorus nach d'fhosgail donis. 
No door closes withotit opening another door. 

117 Còrdadh a reubeadh reachd. 
Agreements breaking the law. 



40 GAEUC PROVERBS. 

ii8 Ceilichidh seirc aineamh. 

Friendship conceals blemishes. 

119 Cha d'thainig eun glan riamh a nead a 
chlamhain. 

There ne'er came a clean bird out of a kites 
nest. 

120 Cha bhi uaill gun dragh. 
Vanity is not without trouble. 

121 Cha bhris mallachd cnaimh. 
A curse breaks no bones. 

122 Cha bheathaich beannachd neach 's am bi. 
A blessing feeds no one. 

123 Cha'n fhaighear math gun dragh. 
Good is not obtained without trouble. 

124 Cha'n eil cleith air an ole, 
Ach gun a dheanamh. 
There is no concealment of evil 
But by avoiding it. 

125 Cha'n eil saoi gun choimeas. 
There is no hero without compare. 

126 Cha bhi luathas is grinneas còmhla. 

" Quickness and neatness do not go together. 

E.P. — The more hurry the less speeed. 

127 Cha'n eil air a mheirleach ach da shùil, 
Ach tha dà-shìùl-dheug ga fheitheamh. 
The thief has only two eyes, 

But there are a dozen eyes watching him. 

oJjSsuii^L 128 Cha robh ceileach nach robh breugach. 
*^%nMMU- There ne'er ivas reticent, but was untruthful. 



.11. 



MISCEI.I.ANEOUS. 41 

129 Cruinneachadh cruaidh is sgapadh farsuinn. 
Hard gathering and wide scattering. 

130 Cha dean duine dona ach a dhichioll. 
A poor fellow can do hut his best. 

131 Co air bith a phàigheas math le olc 
Thig an t-olc air fhein. 

Whoever 'pays good with ill 
Bringeth ill upon himself. 

132 Cha sgeul ruin e is fios aig triuir air. 
It is no secret when three know it. 

133 Dean tàir air do sheana bhrògan 
Nuair a gheibh thu do bhiògan ùire. 
Despise your old shoes when you get your new 

ones. 

134 Deireadh feile fag. 
Leave the fag-end of a fair. 

135 Diolaidh saothair ainfhiach. 
Industry pays debt. 

136 Dleasaidh airm urram. 
Arms merit honour. 

137 Eallach mhòr an duine leisg. 

The heavy burden of the lazy man. 

138 Badraiginn nan ceaird. 
Going between tinkers. 

139 Biridh tonn air uisge balbh. 

Waves will rise on silent water. 

140 Bug is imrich a dhearbhas taigheadas. 
Death and flitting are hard on house-keeping. 



42 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

141 " Dheanadli e rud-eigin do dh'aon fhear 
Ach's beag a chuid do dhithis e," 

Mar a thuirt Alasdair Mòr mu'n an t- 
saoghal. 
" It would be something for one man, 

But a small portion for two," 
As Alexander [the Great) said about the world. 

142 Duine mòr beag, is duine beag mòr. 
A big-little man, and a little-big man. 

143 Dh' fheòirich i de'n ghaoithe 

"Ma chailleas mi thu càit' an am faigh mi 

thu?" 
A ghaoth — " Air mullach na'n earn." 
Dh'fheòirich i de'n cheò — " Ma chailleas mi 

thu, càit' am faigh mi thu ? " 
A cheò — " Air mullach nam beann." 
Dh' fheòirich mi bho ChHii — "Ma chailleas 

mi thu, càit' am faigh mi thu ? " 
'Cliù — "Caill mise aon uair, 's cha'n fhaigh 

thu gu brath tuilleadh mi." 
She asked of the wind — " // / lost you, where 

could I find you ? " 
The wind — " On the top of the cairns." 
She asked of the mist — " // / lost you, where 

could I find you ? " 
The Mist — " On the top of the mountains." 
She asked of Fame — " // / lost you, where 

could I find yoii ? " 
Fame — " Lose me once, and you will never 

find me again." 

144 Eug is imrich a chlaoidheas taigheadas. 
Death and flitiings the bane of good husbandry. 



MiscEi.r.ANEOus. 43 

145 Esan nacli fuilig dochainn, cha'ii fhaigh e 

socair. 
He who cannot suffer pain will not get ease. 

146 Faodar an t-òr fhèiti a cheannach tuille is 

daor. 
Gold itself may he too dearly bought. 

147 Fialachd do'n fhògarach, 

Is cnaimhean brist' do'n èiicoireach. 

Hospitality to the exile, 

And broken hones to the oppressor. 

148 " Falbhaidh mis' a màireach," ars' an righ ; 
" Fanaidh tu riumsa," ars' a ghaoth. 

"/ will go to-morrow," said the king; 
" You will wait for me," said the wind. 

149 Fanaidh duine sona ri sith, 

Ach bheir duine dona dubh-leum. 

The fortunate man waits for peace, 

And the unfortunate takes a leap in the dark. 

150 Far is sàimhche an uisge, 
'S ann is doimhne e. 

Where the water is stillest it is deepest. 
E.P. — Still waters run deep. 

151 Far is tainne an abhain 
'S ann is mo a fuaim. 
Where the river is shallowest 
It will make the most noise. 

152 Fq^daidh cat sealltainn air an righ. 
The cat may look at the king. 

The writer recalls hearing this proverb quoted by a 
woman to her husband, when his quick retort was : — 

Faodaidh an righ na sùilean a chuir as a chat. i^ 
The king may put the eyes out of the cat. *~ 



44 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

153 Furan an t-aoidh a thig, greas an t-aoidh 

tha falbh. 
Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest. 
The above has its counterparts in many languages. 

154 Fuachd caraid is fuachd ainairt, 
Cha do mhair iad fada riamh. 

The coldness of a friend, and the coldness of 

linen, 
They never lasted long. 

155 Far am bi toil bidh gniomh. 

Where there's a will there will he deeds. 
E.P. — Where there's a will there's a way. 

156 Fear a cheud riarachaidh, cha robh e riamh 

falamh. 
The first served was never empty. 

157 Fior no breuge, millear bean leis. 
True or false, 'twill injure a woman. 

A reproof to scandal mongering and meddlesome 
tattling. 

158 Feiich gu bheil do theallach fhein sguaibte 
Ma's tog thu hiath do choimhearsnaich. 
See that your own hearth is swept. 

Before you lift your neighbour s ashes. 

159 Faodaidh breith hiath a bhi lochdach. 
A hasty judgment may he harmful. 

160 Feumaidh gach beò a bheathachadh. 
All living creatures must he fed. 

161 Feumaidh na fithichean fhein a bhi beò. 
Even the ravens must live. 



MISCELLANEOUS. 45 

This last would make the motto for a " Red Army," 
but its significance goes deeper than any superficial inter- 
pretation. 

162 Feitheamh an t-sionnaich ri sithionn an 

tairbh. 
The fox's waiting for the bull's flesh. 

163 Feumaidh am fear a bhios na eigin 
Beart air chor-eigin a dheanamh. 

He who is in straits mitst make a shift some 
way. 

164 Fhuair e car t-roimhn deathaicli. 
He got a turn through the smoke. "^ 

165 Gun gleidheadh an Tighearna a ghealach 

bho na coin. 
May the Lord preserve the moon from the dogs. 

166 Gleidhidh aire innleachd ged nach gleidh i 

oighreachd. 

Necessity incites inventiveness although it 
may not win a fortune. 

167 Glòir mhòr a cholainn bhig. 

Great praise {sound) from a little body. 

168 Gabhaidh gach dath dubh, 
Ach cha ghabh dubh gach dath. 
Any colour will take black, 

But black will not take any colour. 



*Founded on a very old custom of putting a newly 
christened child in a basket, and handing it over and round >/* 
the fire in order to counteract evil spirits. I , 



46 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

169 Glac ciall, gabh biadh, iarr Dia's cha'n 

eagail duit. 
Have sense, take food, seek God, and there's 
no fear of you. 

170 Gluais faicilleach le cupau Ian. 
Move warily with a full cup. 

171 Gheibh loman an dorus. 
The nÌPGard will he dismissed. 



172 Gum bidheadhmaid air ar gleidlieadh \ 
Bho lagli's bho lighichean. 

May we be preserved from lawyers and from 
doctors. 
Truly a verj' ferveut wish, this one. 

173 Gheibh thu e, nuair a gheibh thu nead na -] 

cuthaig. ■ 

You will get it when you'll find the cuckoo's < 

nest. ;: 

It is well-known that the cuckoo never makes a nest I 

for itself. A Scots parallel is : — \ 

It is ill to take the breeks off a Hielan' man. \ 

This Lowland saying had force only when all High- 
landers wore the kilt. In this connection the fact may be 
recalled that it required an Act of Parliament to take the 
kilt off the Highlander, and another Act of Parliament to 
repeal the previous one. In this respect the Highland garb 
is unique. The Irish National dress was prohibited b}-- an 
Act of the English Parhament, and this Act has never been 
repealed, although now dead from inanition. 

174 Gheibh foighidinn furtachd. > ^ i^isi^L <i^^ ^^ 
Patience will he comforted. 



MISCELLANEOUS. 47 

175 Gheibh an t-uaibhreach leigeadh an uair is 

àirde e. 
The proud will get a fall when at their highest. 

176 Glòir mhillis a mheallas an t-amadan. 
Sweet words beguile a fool. 

177 Ged is beag an dreathan-donn ni e fuaim. 
Although the wren he small it will make a noise. 

178 Gheibh baoth baobh a guidhe 
Ged nach fhaigh a h-anam tròcair. 
A wicked woman will get her wish 
But her soul will not get mercy. 

iy(^ Ged a bheirteadh a bhò do'n an dorus mhòr, 
Reachadh i fhein do'n bhàthaich. 
Though a cow he taken to the mansion door, 
She, herself, will go to the byre door. 

180 Ged is àird 'oscionn nam bochd 
* A sheallas an saibhir, 

Bidh iad an cuideachd a a chèile fhàthast. 
Though high above the poor the rich may look. 
They will he all together yet. 

181 Gealladh gun a choimhghealladh, 
Is miosa sin na dhiultadh. 
Promising but not fulfilling, 

Is worse than refusing. 

182 Ged is grinn an sioda 

Is coma leis co air am bi e. 
Though the silk be fine. 
It cares not who wears it. 



48 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

183 Is sleamhain an leac aig dorus an taighe 

mhòr. 
Slippery is the flagstone [doorstep) at the 
mansion house door. 

A hint of the uncertainty of depending on favours from 
those in high places, and that one's own efforts should be 
depended upon as the means to success. There are, how- 
ever, exceptions to this as to every other rule, note, for 
instance, the following — 

Is fhearr caraid 's a chùirt na crùu 's an sporran. 
A friend at Court is better than a crown in the purse. 

The proverb notwithstanding, money talks to-day as 
it never did before, and with plenty in one's purse, one 
need not trouble about the mansion house's slippery door- 
step. Money is also better distributed than at any time 
before, despite the clamour by some seH-obsessed folk 
against so-called Capitalists. In these altered circumstances 
the more general application of some old-wise sayings may 
have lost some of their force, but they still retain a meaning 
and a moral worthy of attention. 

184 Is fhearr na'n t-òr sgeul air inns' air choir. 
Better than gold is a tale well told. 

185 Is fhearr bloigh bheag le 'bheannachd 
Na bloigh mòr le mallachd. 

Better a small portion with a blessing 
Than a large portion with a cursing. 

186 Is fhearr a bhi leisg gu ceannach 
Na ruighinn gu pàigheadh. 
Hesitation in buying 

Is better than delay in paying. 

187 Is fhearr an cù a bhogas earball 
Na CÙ a chuireas drang air. 
Better the dog that dips its tail 
Than the dog that snarls. 



MISCELLANEOUS. 49 

i88 Is laduma gach cù air a shitig fhein. 
Every dog is bold on his own midden. 

189 "Is bigead e sud," ars' an dreathan donn, 
Nuair a thug e Ian a ghuib a loch mòr uisge. 
" It is less for that," as the wren said, when 

it took the full of its hill from the large lake. 

190 Is olc an t-iasad nach fhiach a chuir dhach- 

aidh 
'Tis a had loan that's not worth sending home. 

191 Is mòr an eire an t-aiueolas. 
Ignorance is a great burden. 

192 Is fhearr còmhairl na thrath, na tiodhlac 

fadalach 
A timely advice is better than a late gift. 

193 Is fhearr deagh eiseamplair na cronachadh. 
Better a good example than a reproof. 

194 Is uaisle am breid na toll. 

The patch is more respectable than a hole 
{rent) . 

195 Is cam 's is direach an lagh. 

Crooked {uncertain) and straight {sure) is the 
law. 

196 Is e eagail an Tigheama toiseach an eòlais. 
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of know- 

' le. 



197 Is bòidhche leis an fhithich a garraiche- 
gorm fein. 
The raven thinks its own chic the prettiest. 

D 



H^ 



50 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

198 Is i a chiall cheannaichte is fhearr. 
Bought wit is best. 

199 Is trie a chaidh feala-dhà gu fealla-rireadh. 
Jesting frequently turns to earnest. 

200 Is mairig a dheanadh èibhneas ri dubhachas 

fir eile. 
Woe to him who would make light of another 
mans grief. 

201 Is ann air a shon fhein an ni an cat crònan. 
It is to please itself that the cat croons. 

I 202 Is fhearr na'n f-òr sgeul air inns' air choir, j 
L, Better thar^gold is a tale well told. ^ 

203 Is sona cuideaehd aig a bhùird, 

Is mairg a bhios ri bhiadh na aonar. 
'Tis pleasant with company at the table, 
Woe to him who feeds alone. 

204 Is fhearr beagan storais na mòran chàirdean. 
Better a little of one's own than many friends. 

205 Is fhearr caitheamh na meirgeadh. 
Better wear than rust. 

206 Innleachd Shasuinn, is neart Alba. 
England's art, and Scotland's force. 

207 Is buan gach olc. 
Evil is lasting. 

208 Is buaine na gach ni an nàire. 
More lasting than all else is shame. 



MISCELLANEOUS. 51 

209 Is fhearr duine na daoine. 
A man is better than men. 

In this is heard the cry, a yearning for a leader, a man 
for the moment ; the man for an emergency, when quick 
decision and action is required. There are, however, 
conceivable circumstances when the council, or, according 
to the terminology of present day politics, the Conference 
is preferable, and so, the proverb again comes in : — 

Is fhearr da cheann na aonan. 
Two heads are better than one. 

210 Is duine coir e, ach na iarr a chuid. 

He is a fine man, but do not ask of} him. 

The foregoing shows that the niggardly were the butt 
and scorn of the good old folk in " the good old days." 

211 Is fhearr a bhi cinnteach na bhi caillteach. 
Better be sure than be a loser. 

212 Is miosa droch earbsa na bhi gun earbsa 

idir. 
A shaken trust is worse than no trust at all. 

213 laUan fada a leathar chàich. 

Long laces from other people s leather. 

214 Is math an seirbheiseach teine, 
Ach's olc a mhaighstir e. 

Fire is a good servant, but a bad master. 

215 Is leisg le leisgein a dhol an laidhe, 
Ach's seac leisg leis èiridh. 
Lazy is lazy in going to bed. 

But seven times lazier to rise. 

216 Is fhearr greim caillich na tagar ri h. 
Better an old woman's bite than the craving 

of a king. 



52 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

217 Is mòr a dh' fhuilingeas cridhe ceart mas 

bris e. 

The upright heart endures a great deal before 
it breaks. 

218 Is fhearr diol farmaid, na diol truaighe. 
Better the recompense of envy than the wages 

of woe. 

219 Is fhearr a bid na d'aonar na'n droch 

chuideachd. 
Better be alone than in bad company. 

220 Is coma leis an righ Eoghann, is coma le 

Eoghann co-dhiù. 
The king doesn't care for Ewen, 
And Ewen doesn't care a straw. 

221 Is math am buachaill' an oidhche, 

Bheir e dhachaidh gach beathach is duine. 
Night is a good shepherd, it bringeth home 
man and beast. 

222 Is minig a dh'fhosgail b.eul uaighe 
Taobh-cruaiche do fhear eile. 

Opening a grave has frequently been another 

man's opening to possession. 
Literally, " opening to a stack's side," stacks of corn 
being the sign of possessions in those days, when all wealth 
was from the land. 

223 Is mairg a shineadh làmh na h-airce 
Do chridh na circe. 

Woe to him ivho stretches poverty's hand 
To the hen-hearted. 

224 Is trie a bheothaich srad bheag teinne mòr. 
A small spark has often kindled a great fire. 



MISCELLANEOUS. 53 

225 Is ìonnan a bhi ad' thosd ri aideachadh. - 

Silence is equivalent to confession. 

226 Is dall duine an cùisean dhaoin eile. 

A man is blind in another mans concerns. 

227 Is duilich seann cheann a chuir air guallain 

òga. 
'Tis difficult to put an old head on a young 
shoulder. 

228 Is labhrach na builg fas. 
Empty bladders are loquatious. 

E.P. — An empty pail makes most noise. 

229 Is mairg air nach bi eagal na breuge. 

Woe to him who is not afraid of falsehood. 

230 Is e'n cunntas ceart a dh'fhàgas càirdean 

buidheach. 
Correct reckoniìig satisfies friends. 

2^31 Is minig a bha còmhairle righ an ceann 
amadain. 
Counsel fit for a king often comes from a fool. 

232 Is fheirde cù cù a chronachadh. 

A dog is the better of another dog being re- 
proved. 

233 Is sona cuid an comuinn, 

Ach is mairg a chromar na aonar. 
'Tis enjoyable to share in company, 
But 'tis wretched to be partaking alone. 

234 Is ùasal mac-an-t-iiasail an tir na meirleach, 
Ach cha'n ùasal mach an t-ùasal mar bi e 

treubhach. 



54 GAEUC PROVERBS. 

Gentle is the son of the gentleman among 

thieves, 
But the gentleman's son is no gentleman if he 

be not dexterous. 

In the olden times dexterit}'' in action was deemed the 
supreme attainment. It was frequently so necessary if 
one were to get away with a whole skin. 

235 Is cliùtach an onair na 'n t-òir. 
Honour is more renowned than gold is precious. 

236 lyabhraidh a bheul, ach se'n gniomh a 

dhearbhas. 
The mouth will speak, hut deeds are the proof. 

237 lyàmh fhad, is cead a sineadh. 

A long arm, and leave to stretch it. 

238 lyionar beam mòr le clachan beaga. 
Great gaps may he filled with small stones. 

239 Leig leis na marbh laidhe. 
Let the dead lie. 

240 Ivcaghaidh a choir am beul an anamhainn 
Justice melts in the motiths of the faint- 
hearted. 

241 lyàmhan leanabh is goile seann duine. 

A child's hands and an old man's appetite. 
[Insatiahle.) 

242 Ivan beòl a bhiadh, is Ian bail' a nàire. 

A 7nouth full of food and a town full of shame. 

243 Mar comas dhuit teumadh, na ruisg do dh' 

eudadh. 
If you cannot hite, do not show your teeth. 
E.P. — Discretion is the better part of valour. 



MISCEIvI^ANEOUS. 55 

244 Muin air mhuin thig an trioblaid, j^ ^^^t — 
Miann air mhiann thig an t-slàint. '^• 
Troubles come one by one, 

Health will come by force of will. 

245 Mar a theil agad ach aon sùil 
Faic leis an t-sùil a th'agad. 
// you have but one eye 

Look with the eye youve got. 

246 Meath am facal ma' leig thu 'mach e 

'S cha chuir e dragh ort fhein no air duin' eile. 
Temper the word before giving it utterance, 
And it will not trouble yourself or any other 
man. 

247 Mar is sine 'sann is miosa, coltach ri cuil 

eanan a mtiadadh ruaidh. 
The older the worse, like the fox's cubs. 

248 Ma 's ann ortsa tlia feum, 
Bidheadh an t-saothair ort. 

// its you that's needed, 
Let the labour be yours. 

249 Millidh droch comh-luadair deagh bheusan. 
Bad conversation spoils good manners. 

250 Mas math leat sith, càirdeas agus ckiain, 
Eisd, faic, is fuirich sàmhach. 

// thy wish be for peace, friendship, and 

appeasement. 
Listen, look, and keep quiet. 

251 Ma bhualas tu cù na balach, bual gu math 

iad. 
// you strike a dog or a lout, strike home. 



56 GAEWC PROVERBS. 

252 Na las sop nach urrainn duit fein a chuir as. 

Do not light a whisp [a fire) you cannot 
yourself put out. 
There is a rebuke here to the foolhardy. 

253 Ni èiridh subhach gnuis shuilbhir. 

A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance. 

254 Ni aire innleaclid. 
Necessity devises. 

255 Na tog toghail air an aineoil. 
Do not quarrel with a stranger. 

256 Na toir breith air reir coltais, 

Faodaidh cridh beartach a bhi fo chòta 

bochd. 
Judge not by appearances, 
A rich heart may he under a poor coat. 

257 Na toir iasad air an iasad. 
Do not lend a loan. 

258 Na'n deanadh mo làmh 
Mar a dh' iarradh mo shtiil. 
// my hand would hut do 

As my eye would desire. 

259 Na'm faighteadh ceud sagairt gun 'bhi 

sanntach ; 
Ceud tailleir gun 'bhi sunndaeh ; 
Ceud griasaiche gun 'bhi breugaeh ; 
Ceud figheadair gun 'bhi bradach ; 
Ceud gobha gun 'bhi pàiteach ; 
Is ceud cailleach nach robh riamh air 

chèiHdh, 
Chuireadh iad an crùn air an righ gun aon 

bhuille. 



MISCEI.I.ANEOUS. 57 

If there could he found — 

A hundred priests who were not greedy ; 

A hundred tailors who were not hilarious ; 

A hundred shoemakers who were not un- 
truthful ; 

A hundred weavers who were not theivish ; 

A hundred blacksmiths who were not thirsty ; 

And a hundred old women who were never 
gossiping ; 

They could put the crown on the kings head 
without striking a blow 

260 Nuair is mo a fhuair mi 'sann is lugha bha 

agam. 
The more I got, the less I had. 

261 Nuair a bhristeas aon bho an gàradh, 
Theid a-dhà-dheug a mach air. 
When one cow breaks the dyke 

Twelve will go through {the breach). 

1262 Ni aire innleachd. 
I flt5'i»L Necessity will find a way. 

E.P. — Necessity is the mother of invention 

263 Na mol neach 's am bith tuilleadh 's a choir, 
Gus nach bi rum agad a chàineadh. 

Do not praise any one too much ; 
Leave room to decry him. 

264 Na spion fiasaig fir nach aithne dhuit. 
Do not pluck the heard of a stranger. 

265 Nuair a bhios ni aig a chat ni i dùrsdan. 
When the cat gets anything it will purr. 



.3 



58 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

266 Oran na circe beadaidh. 
The song of the peri hen. 

267 Ochain an aois, is fhaid' i na'm bàs ! 
Ochone old age, His longer than death ! 

268 Ruisgeadh e a thaigh fhein a thuathadh 

thaigh a choimhearsnaich. 
He would hare his own house to thatch his 
neighbours. 

This last illustrates the spirit of co-operation that was 
inherent in the clan system, and which can still be seen and 
felt wherever is found a community of the old stock still 
settled on the land. This was the spirit that made possible 
the economy of small holdings. In most rural parts to-day 
the population is so sparce, and among the few that are 
there there are so many incomers who are alien to the old 
customs and habits, with the result that the old spirit is 
dying out. Life on the land is becoming more prosaic, 
more difficult, less pleasing ; hence one of the contributory 
causes to the depopulation of the rural areas. In conjunc- 
tion with, and in reality, an essential part of the old spirit 
was the old Highland hospitality which had become pro- 
verbial. A delightful example of it is to be found recorded 
in the late Dr. Charles Fraser-MacKintosh's book, Inverness- 
shire, Parish by Parish. We are told there of an old worthy 
of the Keppoch Clan who had been out in the Forty-five 
with " Prince Charlie." He was known as MacDonald of 
TuUochchrom. TuUochchrom was a farm within the 
confines of Lochaber and Badenoch. His dwelling was on 
a lonely spot, but near the high road, which could be seen 
for a considerable distance while looking either to the right 
or to the left from his front door. In the evening of his 
days he would sit outside watching for the approach of 
pedestrians, and on seeing one he would at once repair 
inside to inform his wife, and preparations would 
be made for providing the wayfarer with a meal. No 
matter who he might be he must needs have travelled a 



MISCEI.I.ANEOUS. 59 

considerable distance before passing Tullochchrom. Some- 
times it happened that the wayfarer would pass without 
calling, upon which the old worthy would wax indignant, 
remarking that the stranger must surely be "a dog at his 
his own home when he would pass another man's door 
without calling." 

V 269 Ruigidh each mall a mhuilean, 
"^ Ach cha ruig an t-each a bhristeas a chnaim- 

hean. 
The slow horse will reach the mill, 
But the one that breaks its hones will not. 

270 Se barail an duine ghlic is tinne theid air 

an fhirinn. 
The wise mans opinion comes nearest the 

truth. 

271 Cur siod air cabar is bidh e breagh. 
Put silk on a stick and it will look fine. 

272 Sionnach ag iarraidh a ruagaidh. 
The fox asking to be chased. 

273 Sireadh sop an cònlaich. 
Searching for a whisp among straw. 

274 Sith do d' anam, is Clach air do Chàrn. 
Peace to your soul, and a stone on yoiir cairn. 

" Clach air do chàrn " (a stone on your cairn) is one 
of our best-known sayings, and it is founded on a custom 
that was common until recent years, probably still practised 
in some parts. At funerals, the coffin resting on bearers 
carried in relays by the mourners, sometimes miles having 
to be traversed in this way, there were certain recognised 
stages where halts were made, a rest and refreshments 
taken. A cairn was erected on the spot, each individual 
contributing a stone to the erection, being synonymous 



6o GAEWC PROVERBS. 

with a stone to the memory of the deceased. Any friend 
unavoidably absent from the funeral would take advantage 
of the first opportunity to make his individual contribution 
in the same way. Hence the origin of the saying : " A stone 
on your cairn." 

275 Sliob am bodacli is sgròbaidh e thu ; 
Bual am bodach is ni e ùmhlachd dhuit. 
Stroke the churl, and he will scratch you, 
Strike him and he will do obeisance to you. 

276 Suidh gu h-iosal is diol gu h-uasal. 
Sit lowly and pay nobly. 

277 Smaointich gu math an toiseach, 
Deanadar an sin. 

Consider well in the first place, 
Then act. 

278 Tha thapadh air teanga an Eirionnaich, 
Ach 's ann an dèigh làimli th'an Gaidheal 

glic. 
The Irishman's wit is on [the tip of) his 

tongue, 
The Gael is wise after the event. 

v^ 279 Tha taobh dubh is taobh geal air. 
Mar a bh'air bàta Mhic-Iain Ghearr. 
He has a white side and a black side, 
Like M'lan Ghearr's boat. 
The M'lain Ghearr and his boat, upon whose story the 
foregoing saying is based, is localised in different localities 
by different versions of the story. The substance, how- 
ever, is the same. Mac-Iain-Ghearr was a notable 
sea rover of the western coast. His galley was painted 
white on one side and black on the other side. As a conse- 
quence, when seen on the way to harry a particular locality, 
and a watch was set for his return, Maclain Ghearr's boat 



MISCElvLANEOUS. 6l 

having a different appearance on his return journey, was 
unsuspectingly allowed to pass without challenge. In 
this manner he frequently contri\ed to outwit his sorely- 
tried enemies. Hence the saying. The plan of cgmou- 
flaging our sea-craft did not originate with the Great War. 

280 Tachraidh na daoine, 
Ach cha tachair na cnuic. 

Men will meet, 

But the hills will not. 

281 Tha beagan tròcair aig an fhairge, 
Ach cha'n eil tròcair idir aig na creagan. 
The waves have some mercy, 

But the rocks have no mercy at all. 

282 Theid aig neach air e fhein a ghleidheadh 

bho'n mheirleach 
Ach cha'n urrainn e e fhein a ghleidheadh 

bho'n a bhreugaidear. 
One can protect himself from a thief, 
But not from a liar. 

283 Tha'n uaisle mar a chumar i. 
Nobility is as it is kept. 

284 Tha'n uaill na bleidire cho mòr ris an eas- 

bhuidh, 
Agus mòran ni 's uaibhriche. 
Pride is as importunate as poverty, 
And much more arrogant. 

I 285 Tha mi na's eòlaiche air coille, 

/(' Na bhi fo eagal na cailHch-oidhche. 

/ am too accustomed to a wood 

To he afraid of an owl. 



62 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

286 Tha fios fithich agad. 

You have a raven s knowledge. 

Supernatural knowledge was attributed to the raven 
by both the Gael and the Norse. Tradition records that 
Odin, the hero-god of the Norse, was kept informed of 
coming events by two ravens in his possession. 

287 Tha smùdan fèin an ceann gach fòid 
Is dòruinn ceanagailt ris gach math. 

Every feat-end has its own smoke, 
And there's something awanting in everything 
good. 

288 Tha sealladh dhiot ua leighis do shiiileau 

goirt. 
A sight of you is a cure for sore eyes. 

289 Trod chàirdean is sith nàimhdean, 

Da rud air nach leigear a leas feart a thoirt. 
Quarrelling among relatives and peace among 

enemies. 
Two things that need not be considered. 

290 Tha iongantas air a chat earball a bhi air. 
The cat wonders at its having a tail. 

291 " Tha biadh is ceòl an so," mar a thuirt a 

mhadadh ruadh, 
'S e ruith air falbh leis a pliiob. 
There is meat and music here, 
As the fox said, when running away with the 

bagpipes. 

292 Tilaidhidh am biadh fiadh na beinne. 
Food will entice the mountain deer. 



MISCELLANEOUS. 63 

293 Tagh do chomhluadar ma'n tagh thu do 

dheoch. 
Choose your company before you choose your 
drink. 

294 Taisg bonn is cosg bonn, is bidh tu sona ; 
Taisg bonn 's na cosg bonn, is bidh tu dona. 
Save a coin and spend a coin, and you'll he 

happy. 
Save a coin and spend one not, unhappiness 
will he your lot. 

295 Thig crioch air an saoghal, ] cf^Ì^ Ì ^flL^ 
Ach mamdh gaol is ceol. J "J^t^ Xc, m 

The world will pass away, / ^7/ 

But love and music last for aye. 

296 Tliig math a mulad, 's thig sonas a suaimh- 

neas. 
Good will come from sadness, and happiness 
fro7n quietness. 

297 Thig eairleigeadh air na righrean. )C 
Exigencies come on kings. 

298 Theid seòltachd thar spionnadh. 

Cunning overcomes strength. 

299 Theid an t-anmhunn dichiollach thar an 

làidir leisg. 
The diligent weak will win o'er the lazy strong. 

300 Teisteanas a choimhearsnaich air gach neach. 
The testimony of neighbours is everybody's 

test. 



64 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

301 Thoir an tarbh do'n Tigh-mhòr, 
Is iarraidh e do'n bhàthaich. 
Take the hull to the mansion, 
And it will want to the byre. 

>302 Trian a thig gun iarraidh 
Eagal, iadach, is gaol. 
Three that come unsought — 
Fear, jealousy, and love. 

303 Truisidh cnaimh feòil fhad's is beò an smior. 
Bones will gather flesh while the marrow is 

sound. 

304 Theid an dichioU thar neart. 

Diligence will overcome strength. 

305 Thoir do chuid do dhuine falamh is gheibh 

thu air ais e diibailte. 
Give to the needy, and you will get it hack 
douhle fold. 

306 Uaisle gun chuid, is maragain gun gheir. 
Birth without means, and puddings without 

suet. 

307 Urram a bhleidire do'n stràcair. 

The sneak's difference to the swaggerer. 



PART II. 

MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. 



IVIEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE, 

BURCKHARDT, in his preface to his not- 
able collection of Eg3^ptian proverbs, 
makes the melancholy observation 
regarding them that he found only one proverb 
among the hundreds recorded by him that 
expresses any faith in human nature. Such a 
comment could not be justifiably made about our 
Gaelic proverbs. As Sheriff Nicolson observes : 
— their view of human nature is keen but kindly, 
critical, but not contemptuous. Our proverbs 
truly portray the character of the Highland 
people as a mixture of diverse qualities, some 
admirable, some not so, but on the whole very 
respectable ; seldom repulsive, oftener attractive, 
and rarely indicating selfishness, stupidity, heart- 
lessness, or treachery. Indeed, such faults are 
repeatedly reproved in our proverbs with anti- 
pathy, contempt, and abhorrence. 

On the other hand, all the virtues of Truth- 
fulness, Honestj^ Fidelity, Self-restraint, Self- 
esteem, Sense of Honour, Courage, Caution, 
Generosity, Hospitality, Courtesy, Peaceableness, 
67 



68 GAELIC PROVKRBS. 

Ivove of Kindred, Patience, Promptness, In- 
dustry, and Providence are highly commended. 
Manliness, in its every phase, is revered in our 
proverbs, and all the virtues will be found 
prominently in such proverbs as are evidently 
native to the soil, that smack of the heather and 
the homely hearth-fires of the common people. 

lyike all nations, the Celts have many proverbs 
essaying to portray the " unscrutable " ways of 
woman. But unlike most nations their proverbs 
regarding them are never coarse or sensuous. 
Sarcastic they are to a degree, but kindly even 
in their sarcasm. Matthew Arnold asserts that 
there is something feminine in the character of 
the Celt, and that to this affinity to the feminine 
temperament is attributed that inborn chivalry 
and courtliness admitted to be characteristic 
of the race. This is a matter upon which there 
may be two opinions, but the writer believes 
that Highlanders would prefer to admit this 
alleged feminine trait than be without that 
chivalry and that courtliness said to be the 
result of it. 

The sacredness of marriage, parental control, 
and the dutiful rearing of their offspring ; 
homilies for the education of the child, and for 
the conduct of the adult, between man and man, 
and between the individual and the community, 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE 69 

are given in that terse and effective language so 
characteristic of the proverb. 

There is also a vein of quiet humour throughout 
our proverbs which satisfactorily beUes the 
charge, too widely believed in, that the High- 
lander is wanting in that saving grace. 



70 GAEIvIC PROVERBS. 

308 Am fear a bhios beudach e fhein, 
Cha sguir e a dli' èigneachadh chàich. 
He who is guilty himself 

Will always he urging others. 

309 Am fear a bhios carach 's a bliaile so bidh e 

carach 's a bhail' ud thall. 
He who is tricky in one place will he tricky 
in that other place. 

310 Am fear a bhios modhail, 

Bidh e modhail ris a h-uile duine. 
He who is mannerly 
Will he mannerly to all. 

311 Am fear a phòsas air son earrais 
Tha e reic a shaorsa. 

He who weds for dower 
Resigns his power. 

312 Am fear a labhras olc mu mnai tha e cuir 

mì-chUù air fhein. 
Who speaks ill of his wife dishonours himself. 

313 An duine a bhios fada gun phòsadh caillidh 

e a phròis. 
He who is late in marrying will lose his pride. 

314 Am fear a gheibh ainm na moch-eiridh, 

faodaidh e cadal fada. 
He who gets the name of heing an early riser 
May take a long sleep. 

315 Am fear a gleidheas long 
Gheibh e la ga seòladh. 
He who will keep a hoat 
Will get a day for sailing it. 



MEN, \VOMEN, MARRIAGE. 71 

316 Am fear a sheallas roimhe cha tuislich e. 
He who looks before him will not stumble. 

E.P. — Look tsfore you leap. 

317 Am fear is isle bruidhinn 
'Se 's fhearr a chluinneas. 
He who speaks the lowest 
Hears the best. 

318 Am fear is clis gu gealladh, 
'Se's clis gu fealladh. 

He who is quickest to promise 
Is also the quickest to deceive. 

y- 319 Am fear nach do dh'ionnsaich aig a ghlùn, 
Cha'n ionnsaich e ris an uilean. 
He who has not learned at the knee, 
Will not learn at the elbow. 

320 Aithnichear am ballach 's a mhaduinn, 
Briste e barrall a bhròige. 

The clown is known in the morning 
He ivill break his shoe lace. 

321 Am fear a bhios air dheireadh beiridh a 

bheist air. 
The beast will overtake him who is last. 

322 Am fear a bhios air thoiseach theid e'n sàs 

arms an làthaich. 
He who is first will stick in the mud. 

E.P.'s—Slow but sure. 

The more hurry the less speed. 
Fools will dare where angels fear to 
tread. 

323 Air a mhàgan roimh na casan. 
Crawling before walking. 



72 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

324 Aithnichear duine air a chuideachd. 
A man is known by his company. 

S.P. — Tell me the company yon keep, 
And I'll tell you your character. 

325 Am fear a bhios fada gun èiridh, 
Bidh e na leum fad' an làtha. 
He who is late in rising 

Will he in a hurry all day. 

326 Am fear a gheibh bàs gach làtha 'se's 

fhaide bhios beò. 
He who is dying every day will live the longest. 

327 Am fear nach cluinn air choir, 
Cha fhreagair e air choir. 

He who will not listen right 
Will not reply a-right. 

328 Am fear is tiuighe claigeann 
Se 's lugha eanchainn. 

He who has the thickest skull 
Has the smallest brain. 

A companion to the foregoing is : — 
Ceann mòr air duine glic 
Is ceann circ air amadan. 

A big head on a wise man, 
And a hen's head on a fool. 

The latter is not to be taken too literally, as witness the 
one immediately preceding it. The shape of the head is 
to be taken into account. 

l^i-l 329 Am fear a thig air na's leir dha, 
Thig e air na 's nàir dha. 
He who speaks of all he sees, 
Will hear what will shame him. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. 73 

330 Am fear nach gleidh an sgillinn 
Cha bhi an guinea aige. 

Who will not keep the penny 
Will not possess the guinea. 

331 Am fear nach teich, teichear roimh. 
Who will not flee, will he fled from. 

Come one, come all, this rock shall fly 
From its firm base as soon as I. 

— Scott. 

332 Am fear a ghleidheas a theanga 
Gleidhidh e a charaid. 

He who holds his tongue keeps his friend. 

333 Am fear nach eil olc air aire cha smaoinich 

e olc air chàich. 
He who is not evil-minded will not think evil 
of others. 

334 Am fear nach fhreagair athair no a mhàthair, 
Freagairidhe an id is tàire leis — craicionn 

an laogh. 
He who will not list to father or mother, 
Will listen to what will please him less, the 

calf's skin (the strap). 

335 Am fear a laidheas anns an pholl togaidh 
e an làthaich. 

He who lies in the mud, part of it will stick 
to him. 

336 Am fear nach leir leas, is mòr de chèiU a 

chailleas e leis. 
He who sees not his chance loses sense and 
does not advance. 



74 GAETJC PROVERBS. 

337 Am fear aig a blieil, cumadh e ; 
Am fear aig nach eil, tarruinneadh e. 
He who has, let him hold ; 

He who is without, let him pull. 

The good old rule, the simple plan. 
That he should take who has the power, 
And he should keep loho can. 

— Wordsn'orth. 

338 Am fear is fhaide bha beò riamh fhuair e 'm 

bàs. 

The oldest man that ever lived, died at last. 

339 Air cho fada 'sa theid thu o'n taighe 

Na toir droch sgeul ort fhèin dhachaidli leat. 

However far you roam, no ill report of yourself 
bring home. 

340 Am fear nach gutli a ghuth, cha rath a rath. 
Whose word is not his bond, his luck will never 

stand. 

341 Am fear nach eisd ris nach toigh leis 
Cha'n fhaic e na 's fhearr leis. 

He who ivill not listen to what he does not like 
Will not see what will please him. 

342 Am fear nach fosgail a sporran fosgaiUdh e a 

bheul. 
He who does not open his pfirse opens his 
mouth. 

343 An am an eigin dearbhar na càirdean. 
In time of need friends will be tested. 

E.P. — A friend in need is a friend indeed. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. 75 

344 An car a bliios 's a mhàthair is giiàth leis a 

bhi 's an nighean. 
The mother's failings will naturally he seen 
in the daughter. 

345 " A chaillich, an gabh thu 'n righ ? " 
" Cha ghabh, 's nach gabh e mi." 

" Crone, will you have the king ? " 
" I won't, as he won't have me." 

346 Aisigidh leannanachd an tochradh. 

Sweet-hearting brings the tochar {dower). 

347 Aisling caillich — mar a dùrachd. 

An old wife's dreams — according to her desires. 

348 A pògadh an leanabh air sgàth na banaltrum. 
Kissing the child for the sake of {while iiuooing) 

the nurse. 

349 Aon mhac caillich, agus aon mhart muilleir. 
An old woman's only son, and a miller's one 

cow. 

350 Aon mhac na truaighe, 

Is dualach gun teid e' dholaidh. 
The unfortunate only son, 
Naturally goes to the dogs. 

351 Aon nighean caillich, 
Aon eun teallaich. 

The old wife's only daughter, 
The one hearth chicken. 

352 An leanabh a dh' fhàgar dha fhein. 
Cuiridh e air a mhàthair nàire. 

The child that's left to himself 
Will put his mother to shame. 



76 GAEWC PROVERBS. 

353 A thoil fhein do gach duine, 
'S an toil uile do na mnathan. 
His own wish to every man, 
And all their wishes to the women. 

354 Am fear a phòsas bean pòsaidh e dragh. 
He who marries a wife marries trouble. 

Sheriff Nicolson says : " I have found no Gaelic proverb 
expressing anything more unfavourable to marriage than 
this one, which is more than can be said of the proverbs 
of any of the greater nations of Europe." 

355 Aithnichear fear domeisg air faire. 

The slattern's husband is" known from afar. 

356 Aithnichear leanabh air a bheusan. 
A child will be known by its manners. 

357 Aithnichear duine air a chuideachd. 
A man will be known by his company. 

358 Beiridh bean mac, ach se Dia a ni an t-oighre. 
A woman may bear a son, but God makes the 

heir. 

359 Bidh an luairgean-luatha na uallachan giUie. 
The child that grovels in the ashes, will become 

a jaunty lad. 

360 Cha'n fhuirich muir ri uallach ; 
Cha dean bean luath maorach, 
Cha dean bean gun nàire cugainn, [ 

'S cha dean bean^fhuaras gudach. ojo 
The sea ne'er waits for a burden ; 
A restless woman will not get bait ; 
A shameless woman no kitchen makes, 
And a leisureless woman no sewing can do. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. JJ 

361 Bheir duine glic breith bliadlina 
Air fear na h-aon oidhche. 

A wise man will form a years judgment 
From one night's knowledge of another man 

362 Bheir na daoine beaga rud as an speur 
Cho luath ris na daoine mora. 

The small men will take a thing from the sky 
As soon as the tall men. 

363 Bu àluinn a gnuis na'm b'iul-mhor a bheus. 
The countenance were beautiful were the 

behaviour good. 

364 Bean ruadh, dhubh-shiiileach ; 
Cù lachduinn, las-shùileach ; 

Fear an fhuilt dhuibh 's na fiasaige ruadh, — 
Na tri còmhlaichean is mios air bith. 
A red-haired, black-eyed woman ; 
A dun, fiery-eyed dog ; 
A blackhhaired, red-bearded man — 
The three unluckiest to meet. 

365 Bidh an dnine foghainnteach beò 
Ged a b'e a chlobh a choir. 
The able man will make a living 
Had he be a tongs to start with. 

366 Comhairle caraid gun iarraidh, 

Cha d'fhuair i riamh a mheas bu choir d'i. 

A friend's counsel, unasked. 

Is never esteemed as it ought to be. 

367 Cha robh thu 's an taighe nuair a bha ciall 

ga roinn. 
You were not at home when sense was being 
divided. 



78 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

368 Clia deanar beanasptaighe air 11a fraigheamli 

falamh. 
House-keeping is not possible on empty 
shelves. 

369 Cha'n eil feum air gliocas an bhochd, 
Na air pàlein am fàsach. 

There is no need for the poor's wisdom, 
Nor for a palace in the wilderness. 

370 Cha tuig òig aìmheart, 's cha tuig amadan 

aimhleas. 
Youth perceives not poverty, and a fool 
discerns not misfortune. 

371 Cha do leig duine dha dheòiii a chòir-bhreith 

do dhuine beò. 
No man willingly parts with his birthright to 
any other living man. 

372 Cha teich ach cladhaire, 
Cha'n fhuirich ach seapaire. 
None but a craven will flee, 
None but a sneak will tarry. 

373 Cridh drc'an gob na h-airc. 

A hen's heart goes with misery. 

374 Cha dean triirse ach truaghan, 

'S cha'n fhaigh fear an lag mhisnichidh bean 

ghhc gu la luan. 
Only a poor creature wails ; 
And the non-courageous will never get a 

prudent imfe. 

375 Cha robh math na olc riamh gun mnai uime. 
There never was good or ill without a woman 

being concerned in it. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. 79 

376 Cha leig an leisg d'a deòin duine air slighe 

choir am feasd. 
Indolence never consents to a man rightly 
pursiiing his way. 

377 Ceist bradaig air breugaig. 

Sly hoot's query concerning tell-tale. 

378 Cha'n eil an uaill 's an endaidh, 
Ach 's an fhear a cheannaicheas i. 
There is no vanity in the dress, 

But in the one who buys it. 

379 Cha'n nàir' do dhuine 'bhi lag, 
Ach 's nàir' dha a bhi bog. 

No shame on a man to he weak, 
But shame on him to he soft. 

380 Cha bi an t-suiridh bean gun chosdas. 
Wooing is a costly dame. 

381 Ccannsaichidh a h-iiile fear an droch bhean 
Ach an duin' aig am bi i. 

Everyone can rule a shrew 
Except the one she's married to. 

^ 382 Fear dubh, dàna ; fear ban, bleideil ; 

Fear donn, dualach ; 's fear ruadh sgeigeil. 
A dark man, hold ; a fair man, officious ; 
A hrown man, tortuous ; and a red man, 
scornful. 

383 Fear am bi an deagh dhuine, 

Is duin' e an cuideachd no na aonar. 
Where a good man is, he is a man, in company 
or alone. 



8o GAELIC PROVERBS. 

384 Faodaidh duine 's am bith gàir a dheanamh 

air cnoc. 

Any man can laugh on a hillside. 

385 Faodaidh fearg sealltainn a stigh air cridh 

an duine ghlic, 
Ach còmhnaichidh i an cridh an amadain. 
Anger may look in on a wise man's heart, 
But it abides in the heart of a fool. 

386 Fàinne mu'n mheur 's gun snàithne mu'n 

mhàs. 
A ring on the finger and no clothes on the loins. 

387 Fàgaidh siod, is sròl, is sgàrlaid, 
Gun teinne, gun tuar an fhàrdach. 
Silk and satin, and scarlet, 
Leave a fireless, colourless hearth. 

388 Feadaireachd bhan, is gairm chearc- 
Dà nithean tha toirmisgte. 
Whistling women, and cackling hens, 
Two things forbidden. 

389 Far am bi bo bidh bean, 

Is far am bi bean bidh buaradh. 
Where there's a cow there will be a woman, 
And where there's a woman there will be 
trouble. 

390 Far nach bi na mic-uchda 
Cha bhi na fir-feachda, 

Where there are no boys in arms. 
There will be no armed men. 

Ill fares the land to hastening ills a prey, 
Where wealth accumulates and men decay. 

— Goldsmith. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. 8 1 

391 Far nach bi na failleanan 
Cha bhi na cnothan. 
Where there are no suckers 
There will he no nuts. 

The foregoing two convey the same idea. 

392 Fear nach reic 's nach ceannaich a choir. 
A man who will neither sell nor buy the right. 

393 Fuihngidh gach beathach a bhi gu math 

ach mac an duine. 
Every creature will suffer being good but the 
son of man. 

The Gaelic proverbs can be sarcastic to a degree, as 
for instance : — 

394 Foighidinn nam ban — ach an ctmntar a tri. 

Woman's patience — 'till you count three. 

This is pointed, and pithy, and true — sometimes. 
It bears the stamp of the Gael's manner towards women, in 
so much that it indicates tolerance, without being coarse. 
Sentimental, or, say amorous — an amorousness of a 
romantic kind — is a prominent feature where the proverbs 
of other nations are too often sensuous. Hence their 
trueness of spirit, and justness of appreciation. 

395 Ged nach duine an t-aodach, 
Cha duin' e as eugmhais. 

Though the raiment be not the man, 
He is no man without it. 

396 Glas-labhradh air nighean gun fhios — 
Ach lasar na sùil ga innse chs. 

The tongue-tied maid — too shy to speak, 
Bitt 'tis told by the eyes, and the glance so meek. 

F 



82 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

397 Ged is dubh an dearcag, is milis i ; 
Ged is dubh mo chaileag, is bòidheach i. 
Though black the berry, 'tis sweet ; 
Though black my lassie, she's bonny and neat. 

398 Gillie firionn 's e fas 

Dh' itheadh e mar mheileadh bràth. 
The feeding of a growing boy 
Would a quern-mill aye employ. 

399 Gabh duine air fhacal agus each air aghartas. 
Judge a man by his word, and a horse on its 

going. 

400 Is fhearr bean ghlic na crann is fearann. 
Better a wise wife than plough and land. 

401 Is fhasa deagh ainm a chall na chosnadh. 
A good name is easier lost than gained. 

402 Is mòr a dh' fhaodar a dheanamh fo laimh 

deagh dhuine. 
Much may be done under the guidance of a 
good man. 

403 Is olc a thig do shaor a bhi sàr-bhuileach ; 
Do ghobh' a bhi crith-làmhach ; 

'S do leigh a bhi tiom-chridheach. 

It ill becomes a carpenter to be heavy-handed ; 

A smith to be shaky -handed ; 

Or a physician to be tender-hearted. 

404 Is treise dithis a dol thar an atha, na fad'o' 

chèile. 
Two are stronger together, than far apart, in 
crossing a ford. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. 83 

405 Is trom an uallach an aois. 
Old age is a heavy burden. 

Old age, thou art not to us kindly, 
'Gainst thee there is none can hold ; 
Thou wilt bend the straighest, and the 
Bravest soldier must grow old. 

406 Is beo duine an deidh a shàrachadh, 
Ach cha bheo e'n deidh a nàireachadli. 
A man may live after being harassed, 
But not after being disgraced. 

407 Is e'n t-ionnsachadh òg 

An t-ionnsachadh bòidheach. 
The learning in youth 
Is the pretty learning. 

408 Is dileas lotan caraid, 

Ach 's mealltach pògan nàmhaid. 
Faithful are the wounds of a friend. 
But an enemy's kisses are deceitful. 

409 Is daoi nach gabh còmhairle, 

Is deamhain nach gabh seòladh. 
He is wicked who will not be advised, 
He is a demon who will not be guided. 

410 Is fearr a bhi 'n iomall a phailteas 
Na 'n deis-meadhon na bochdainn. 
Better be bordering on plenty 

Than be in the very middle of poverty. 

411 Is lag gualainn gun bhràthair, 
Nuair a thig na fir a làthair. 

Weak is the shoulder without a brother, 
When men come against one another. 



84 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

412 Is duilich dtdn' a lorgachadh troimli abhainn. 
It is difficult to track a man through a river. 

413 Is mòr le doimeig a cuid abhrais, 
Cha'n e a mhothaid ach a dhorad. 
Formidable to the slut her possession of stuff — 
Not the quantity of it, hut the trouble of it. 

This was first said in reference to spinning, in the days 
when housewives generally excelled in home-carding, 
home-spinning, and home-weaving. Darning, it is pleasing 
to say, is still practised by all good housewives. 

414 Is fhearr a bhi marbli na bhi na d' thràill 

reamhar. 
Better be dead than he a fat slave. 

415 Is minig a thug teanga duine greim mòr ri 

chagnadh. 
A man's tongue will often give him a big bite 
to chew. 

416 Is minig a bha pòsadh luath na pòsadh 

truagh. 
Is am posadh mall na pòsadh dall. 
The hurried marriage is often a tragedy, 
And the slow to marry are often blind. 

There seems nothing left here but to take one's chance, 
by risking it. Note the following, it would make one furiously 
to think ; but note also the proverbs immediately following, 
and the risk will be found worth taking. 

417 Is diù teine, feani ùr, 

Is diti an duine, mì-rùn ; 

Is diù dìthe, fion sean ; 

Ach's diù an domhain droch bliean. 



/ 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE 85 

Worst of fuel, alder green ; 
Worst thing human, malice keen ; 
Worst of drink, wine without life, 
But worst of all things, a had wife. 

The foregoing singles out an individual, what follows 
has a general application. 

418 Is mine min na gran. 
Is mine mnai na fir. 
Meal is finer than grain, 
Women are finer than men. 

A very delicate and pretty comparison, characteristi- 
cally Celtic. And here there is conveyed a lesson. 

419 Is i an t-àilleantachd maise nam ban. 
Modesty is the beauty of women. 

The Gael regards woman as of finer mould, therefore 
he is courteous towards her ; she is of more tender sensi- 
bility, therefore he is deferential towards her. He is not, 
however, too servile in his admiration of her ; he is not 
insensible to her faults, and he does not hesitate to condemn 
them in his proverbs. The more exceptionable they be 
the more conspicuous will they be, and hence the severity 
of his condemnation, but there is rarely any coarseness in 
his expression of it. 

It would be difficult to pay a higher compliment to the 
sex, and it would be/equally difficult to do it more forcibly 
than in the following : — 

420 Tagh nighean an deagh mhathair 
Ged a b'e an Diabhuil a h-athair. 
Choose the good mother's daughter 
Were the Devil her father. 

The same idea is more tenderly conveyed in the 
beautiful Enghsh proverb : — 
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. 



86 GAEWC PROVERBS. 

He knows nevertheless that perfection is not to be 
expected. Burns' " I^ass of Ballochniyle " notwithstanding : 
and so he says : — 

421 Na gabh te air bith mar mnai 
A sheallas i fhèin gun mheang. 
Take no woman for a wife 

Who presents herself without a flaw. 
He is still more persistent when he sa5'-s : — 

422 Nuair a chi thu bean oileanach, 
Beir oirre, beir oirre ; 

Mar a beir thus' oirre, 

Beiridh fear eil' oirre. 

When you see a well-bred womafi, 

Catch her, catch her ; 

If you don't do it, 

Someone else will match her. 

^ 423 lyùb am fàillean nuair a tha e maoth. 
Bend the sapling while it is young. 

424 Ivcig leis na marbh laidhe. 
Let the dead lie. 

425 Mar a mheasas duin' e fein, 
\S ann a mheasas each e. 
As a man esteems himself 

So will he he esteemed by others. 

426 Mas fearail thu, na biodh gruaim ort. 
// you are manly, don't be gloomy. 

"b^X 427 Ma dh' innseas duine na's lèir dha 
Innsidh e na's nàir' dha. 
If a man tells all he sees, he'll tell what will 
shame him. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. 87 

428 Ma's math leat do mholadh, faigh bàs ; 
Ma's math leat do chàineadh pòs. 

// you wish to he praised, die ; 
If you wish to he decried, marry. 

429 Mac màthaireil, is nighean àthaireil. 

A son like the mother, and a daughter like the 
father. 

% 430 Mar a chaitheas duin' a bheatha, 

Bheir e breith air a choimhearsnaich. 
As a man leads his own life. 
So will he judge his neighbours. 

> 431 Math air seann duine, math air feall duine. 
Is math air leanabh beag, trimaitheancaillte. 
Good done to an old man, good done to a 

worthless man. 
And good done to a little child, three goods 

thrown away. 
Unless there be some hidden philosophy here, the 
present writer would question the truth of all three asser- 
tions. There is surely a balm of self-satisfaction, a joy to 
one's soul in doing good to an old man ; doing good to a 
worthless fellow may not be so good, but if any good act 
can do even a worthless fellow good, by all means do it. 
Nothing can be good if it cannot do good. Doing good to a 
little child is surely the most praiseworthy act conceivable, 

432 Measar an t-amadan gHc ma chumas e a 

theanga. 
The fool may pass for wise if he holds his 
t07igue. 

433 Miann an duine lochdaich, 
Càch uile a bhi contrachd. 
The wicked man's desire — 
Evil to all others. 



05 GAEWC PROVERBS. 

434 Mlllidh bo buaile, mille bean baile. 

A cow will spoil a fold, a woman will spoil a 
township. 

The following shows the other side of the picture, and 
proves the truth of another saying which says : " There 
are two sides to everything." 

435 ** Mo chuid fhein," " mo bhean fhein," 
Is "tiugainn dhachaidh/' na tri faclan is 

blaisd' a th' ann. 
"My own property," "my own wife," and 
" come home," 
The three sweetest sayings there are. 

'Tis the true pathos, and sublime, 

Of human life, 
To make the home fireside chime, 

Wi weans and wife. 

— Burns. 



The comparisons in the following are not all that could 
be desired, but who will deny that they are humorously 
truthful. 



436 Nàdur circe, nàdur muice, is nàdur mnatha — 
Gabhaidh iad an doigh fhein. 
The nature of a hen, of a sow, and of a woman, 
To take their own way. 

E.P. — Convince a woman against her will. 
She's of the same opinion still ; 
For if she will, she will, you may depend on't ; 
A nd if she won't, she won't, and there's an 
end on't. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. OQ 

437 Na tagh Binneagag, no Grinneagag, no 

Gaogag ; 
Ach ciarag bheag air dhath na Inch, na sir, 

'snaseachani. 
Choose not the smooth-tongued one, the girning 

one, or the squint-eyed one ; 
But the little, sallow, mouse- coloured one, 

neither seek nor shun her. 
It looks like Punch's advice to those about to marry — 
" Don't." 

438 Na toir bean a taigh mòr, 
Na bo bho ghàradair. 

Do not take a wife from a mansion, 
Or a cow from a gardener. 
The idea here may be fairly guessed, but one need not 
agree with it. In any case there will be the exceptions 
that prove the rule. In giving an address on the proverbs, 
and quoting this one, the writer was reproved by one of 
his hearers who admitted having done what the proverb 
advised us against doing, and he did not regret his action. 
There is nevertheless a good deal to be said for the proverb's 
advice. 

439 Na dean tàir chabhagach 
Air giullan luideagach, 
No air loth pheallagach. 
Do not quickly disparage 

A ragged laddie, or a shaggy filly. 

440 Ni òigeir leisg bodach brisg. 

A lazy youth will make a lively old man. 

441 Na chi na bige 'se ni na bige, 

Na chluinneas iad 'se chanas iad. 

What the little ones will see the little ones will do, 

And what they hear they will repeat. 



90 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

442 Na dean uaill a t-athair no a do mhàthair, 
Ach dearbhadh do ghiùlan fhèin 

Gur duin' uasal thu. 

Do not boast of your father, or of your mother, 
But prove by your own conduct that you are 
a gentleman. 

443 Ni màthair iasgaidh nighean leisg. 

A light-heeled mother makes a leaden-heeled 
daughter. 

444 Phòs mi luid air son a cuid, 

Dh' fhalbh a cuid is dh' fhan an luid. 
/ married a trollop for her gear ; 
Her gear has gone, but she's still here. 

445 Sealladh àrd an seann mhaighdinn. 
The disdainful {high) look of the old maid. 

446 Suiridhe fada bho 'n taighe is pòsadh am 

bun an doruis. 
Wooing far from home and marrying next door. 

447 Socraichidh am pòsadh an gaol. 
Marriage will sober love. 

448 Tha 'n duin' ionraic ionraic eadar bhun is 

bhàrr. 

The upright is upright from head to foot. 

449 Theid duine gu bàs air sgàth an nàire. 
A man will die to save his honour. 

450 Treubhantas an duine bhig — fead is fuaim. 
The small mans valour — a whistle and a noise ^ 

451 Tuigidh bean bean eile. 

One woman understands another. 



MEN, WOMEN, MARRIAGE. 9I 

452 Tha breith uasal na thogail mùirneach, 
'S tha deagh fhoghlum taitneach ; 

Ach 's fhearr an cliù a chosnas duine dha 
fhein. 

Genteel birth is good rearing, 
And a good education is desirable, 
But better the good name earned by ones self. 
When birth, rearing, and education fails to make a 
man, then comes the force of the following : — 

453 Tha feum aig a shròin air fuarachadh. 
His nose is the better of cooling. 

454 Tagh do bhean 's a currachd-oidhch' oirre- 
Choose your wife with her night-cap on. 

455 Tapan gòraig air cuigeal criontag. 
The foolish ones tuft of wool 

On the thrifty ones distaff. 

456 Tagh eun a nead glan. 

Choose a bird from a clean nest. 

457 Teagaisg ga thoirt do mhnaoi bhuirb. 
Mar bhuille ùird air iarunn fuar. 
Teaching a turbulent woman is like strokes of 

hammer on cold iron. 

458 Teinne chaoran is gaol ghiullan, 
Cha do mhair iad fada riamh. 
Peat-fragment fire and boy's love 
Never were lasting. 

45,9 Thig dànadas gu droch òilean. 

Boldness leads to bad manners. 
460 Taigh gun chu, gun chat, gun leanabh beag, 

Taigh gun ghean, gun ghàire. 

A house without a dog, a cat, or a little child, 

Is a house without joy or laughter. 



PART III. 

WEATHER AND SEASON LORE — OBJECT LESSONS 
FROM NATURE — THE DEITY— THE DEVIL. 



WEATHER AND SEASON I.ORE— OBJECT 

IvESSONS FROM NATURE— THE DEITY— 

THE DEVIIy. 

INDUSTRIAL communities, whose environ- 
ments, and whose whole worldly existence 
depend upon human exertions — human 
handiwork on hard materials, and according to 
cold material laws, to such communities, through 
no fault of their own, nature is almost a closed 
book. This is generally speaking. There are 
exceptions to all rules. It is otherwise among 
rural communities, and among no surroundings 
does the book of nature appeal so strongly as 
it does amidst the savage grandeur, the sublime 
solitude, and the giant strength of the mighty 
mountains. Thus it is that the people of moun- 
tainous countries are more imaginative. 

Witness that natural phenomenon so common 
in such parts, when distant objects seem to be 
creeping nearer. It must have been a source of 
wonder and awe to primitive man. lyong usage 
to it taught him that it presaged rainy weather. 
He probably did not understand that the change 
had already taken place with the advent of the 
phenomenon thus presented ; that the atmosphere 
had become so impregnated with floating globu- 

95 



96 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

lar particles of moisture, collectively acting as 
magnifying glasses, thus enlarging those distant 
objects, and making them appear so much 
nearer to the view. 

"Mountains are the great cathedrals of the earth, 
with their gates of rock, pavements of clouds, 
choirs of stream and stone, and altars of snow," 
and they have a fascinating glamour that is up- 
lifting in its influence. Among them the mystery 
of a great beyond becomes intensified. Natural 
phenomena of every kind have a powerful 
influence on the human intellect until and when 
that intellect becomes so obsessed with its own 
powers of penetration into the why and where- 
fore of everything, when it is apt to go to a too 
self-satisfied extreme in the opposite direction. 

Primitive man, no matter how savage, and 
how fearless in the face of physical pain and 
danger ; no matter how reckless in battle, he is 
timid to a degree when faced with the eruptions 
of nature. One of the earliest proverbial sayings 
associated with the Celts is recorded in the 
Third Book of the Ethics of Aristotle, a work 
dating from 400 B.C. Here it is recorded that 
it was even then a proverbial saying of the Celts 
of Asia Minor, that — 

They feared neither an earthquake 
Nor a storm upon the sea. 



WEATHER AND SEASON LORE. 97 

these having been, apparently, the most dreaded 
of nature's eruptions, as indeed they are unto 
our own day. 

In the same manner, the passing of the seasons 
gave food for thought to primitive man, and 
superstitions took shape in the course of his 
thinking. The following sounds ominous in its 
eeriness : — 

461 Nuair is ceud-aoineach an t-samhuinn, 
Is iargaineach fir an domhain. 

When Hallowmas falls on a Wednesday, 
All men are uneasy. 

Why this should be so it is hard to guess. 
October we know to be the dusk of the year, and 
Hallowmas was taken as heralding dreary winter. 
An old saying ran : 

462 Is Foghair gu NoUaig, 

Is Geamhradh gu Fheill-Padruig, 
Earrach gu Fheill-Peadair, 

Is Sarnhuinn gu Fheill-Martainn. 

Autumn until Christmas Day, 

Winter Hill St. Patrick's, 
Spring until St. Peter's Day, 

And Summer until Martinmas. 

But although October may be associated with 
a melancholy feeling owing to the general decay 
of nature, it not infrequently includes some of 
the finest and most exhilarating weather of the 



98 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

year. Frosts in the mornings and evenings are 
common, whilst the middle of the day is enlivened 
by all the sunshine of July without its oppres- 
siveness, and the clearness of a frosty day in 
January or December without its piercing cold. 
But nearly all our singing birds have departed 
for sunnier lands far over the sea, and the 
swallows are preparing to follow them, while 
other birds visit us who have been absent all 
spring and summer. These habits were observed 
and noted, and deductions made that are 
perpetuated in our proverbs. 

When the occupations of a people are almost 
wholly pastoral, both the vegetable and the 
animal kingdoms are wide fields spread by 
nature before them, nor was a knowledge of the 
mineral world entirely absent. An observant 
people, such as our ancestors really were, assimi- 
lated the wisdom thus inculcated. Before 
human invention acquired the knowledge of 
letters, and sought to record maxims and events 
on marble or brass, proverbs perpetuated the 
wisdom thus acquired. There is thus more in 
the eeriness attributed by them to Hallowmas 
than at first appears. In our own day this 
time of the year enforces its depressing thoughts. 
The advent of November, the month of fogs and 
of Sittings, the severing of many ties all making 



WEATHER AND SEASON LORE. 99 

gloomier a gloomy time of the year. Science 
had its beginnings among all such peoples. Their 
deductions and conclusions may have been 
primitive in the light of the more advanced 
knowledge of our own day, but the spiritual 
and the material were to them interdependent, 
a happy combination in which the spiritual 
remained unchallenged as the guiding star and 
motive power. To their receptive senses the 
beauties of nature conveyed meanings and 
messages unconceivable to-day to all but the 
select few whose opportunities and inclinations 
induce them to revel in nature studies. In 
the olden times such knowledge was common to 
all. To them— 

The rainbow in the morning 
Was the shepherd's warning, 
The rainbow at night 
The shepherd's dehght. 

Not only were natural objects their teachers, 
but communings with nature were frequent in 
their philosophy, and so - 

Thinkest thou how that low sighing heard 
By Ossian, when the wind was stirr'd. 
Filled his old sightless eyes with tears, 
His soul with thoughts of other years ; 
The spirit of the men he mourned 
In that low eerie sound return'd. 



100 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

Weather signs, season lore, and the object 
lessons of nature, in all their various and vaiying 
moods, were observed, and inwardly read with 
zest and to good purpose. The influence of 
weather conditions on plants was particularly 
noticed. 

Tha seamrag Muire a dtiineadh a sùil. 

Mary's shamrock is closing its eye. 
This small flower, known in GaeHc as " Mary's 
Shamrock," is the common wild pimpernel, 
to be seen in much more profusion in England 
than in Scotland, where its habits w^ere also 
noted. In rural England it used to be known 
as " the poor man's weather glass," and also as 
" the shepherd's cloak." These native names 
of flowers, whether in Gaelic or English, are full 
of beauty and of poetry, frequently descriptive 
of some healing virtue, or some natural character- 
istics displayed by them under certain weather 
conditions, and some times conveying other 
meanings and associations which are entirely 
absent from the classical names imposed upon 
us to-day. In those days, when people read 
more deeply into nature's book : 

A yellow primrose was to them . 
More than a blossom on a stem. 

Nature worship is but a step to the worship 



WEATHER AND SEASON I,ORE. lOI 

of the Deity, and is the very antithesis of the 
materiahsm becoming so prevalent to-day among 
our huge industrialised communities. Hence is it 
that the object lessons of nature are so beauti- 
fully inspiring. 

The impress of the Highlander's religion will 
be found prominently^ in his proverbs, and, as 
Nicolson truly says, the providence and the 
merciful forbearance of the Almighty is shown 
without any of the Jewish notion of vengeance. 
On the other hand, such references as are made 
to the Devil are not all so severe as might be 
expected. As Professor Maclycan says, tie 
general conception of the Devil as appearing in 
our Gaelic proverbs make him no more than just 
" a tricky rascal, instead of the incarnation of 
evil." His Gaelic cognominal appellatives are, 
to say the least, mild : — 

463 Dòmhnull Dubh, 

Black Donald. 
463a Maoisean. 

Nasty felloiv. 

The next would seem to be pre-Christian in origin ; 
indeed a few others would indicate in the same direction. 

464 Is ionnan aithreachas criche 

Ri 'bhi cuir siol mu Fheill-Màrtainn. 

Death-bed repentance is 

Like sowing seed at Martinmas. 

\T ^ 



102 GAEUC PROVERBS. 

This is not in keeping with the belief that " while the 
lamp holds on to burn the greatest sinner may return." 

The necessitarian point of view of the world is rather 
prominent in our proverbs, probably a legacy of pagan 
times. Many such beliefs were adopted during the 
transition period from Paganism to Christianity, much 
of the " Conversion " having been by command, as 
was the case with the Saxon King of Kent, who boasted 
of his having made ten thousand Christians by force 
majure.* This necessitarian view is illustrated by sayings 
still common in the vocabulary, such as : — 

465 Bha e'n dan dha. 
It was his fate. 

466 Bha uair ga ruitli. 

His hour was pursuing him. 

But more prominent in the Gael's philosophy was 
absolute trust in the Almighty, his necessitarian view 
notwithstanding, or, perhaps, on account of it. 

467 An ni a gheall Dia, cha inheall duine. 
What God has promised man cannot prevent. 

468 Am fear nach teagaisg Dia cha teagaisg 

duine. 
Whom God will not instruct, man cannot 
teach. 

469 Bidh gach ni mar is àill le Dia. 

All things i&ill be as God will have them. 

The object lessons of nature are particularly 
noted, and the beauty of the expressions in 
conveying ideas with regard to them are very 
fine. 



♦Bede's History of England. 



WEATHER AND SEASON I,ORE. I03 

470 A bheinn is àird' a tli' a anns an tir, 
\S ann oirre 's trie a chithear an ceo. 

The highest mountain in the land 
Is oftenest covered with mist. 

The philosophy here cannot be mistaken. Nor is the 
adverse side less trenchant. 

^ 471 A chuiseag a dh' fhàsas as an òcraich, 
'Si is àird' a thogas a ceann. 
The weed that grows from the midden 
Lifts its head the highest. 

And then : — 

472 Is i'n dias is truime is isle ehromas a eeann. 
The heaviest ear of corn bends its head the 

lowest. 

Here we have substance and humility delicately 
portrayed, as has already been observed. 

473 Aiteamh na gaoth tuath, 
Sneach is reodhadh anns an uair. 

The thaw that comes while north winds blow 
Will followed be by frost and snow. 

474 Am fear nacli cuir 's a mhairt 
Cha bhuan e 's an Fhoghair. 
Who doesn't sow in March 
Will not reap in Autumn. 

475 Am feur a thig a mach 's a mhàrt 
Theid e stigh 's a Ghiblein. 
The grass that grows in March 
Will shrink away in April. 



104 GAEUC PROVERBS. 

476 Am mios buidh. The yellow month {July). 
Am mios dubh. The black month {November) . 
Na miosan marbh. The dead months 
{December and January). 

^yy An sneacmnach tig mu shamhuinn 
Thig e gu reamhar mu Fheill-Brighde. 
The snow that comes not at Hallowmas, 
Will come thickly at Candlemas. 

478 A cheud la de'n mhàirt leig seachad ; 
An dara la ma's fheudar, 
'San treasa làtha, 

Ged nach reachadh clach ceann a mheòir 
An aghaidh na gaoth tuath, 
Cuir an siol anns a Mhairt. 
The first of March let pass ; 
The second of March, if need be ; 
But the third of March, 
Thovigh you could not send a stone 
A nail's breadth against the north wind, 
Sow your seed in March. 

To appreciate the full force of this saying, we must 
reckon time by the Old Style. The first week of April 
to-day would coincide with what was the third week of 
March then. 

It is here implied that although Spring work should 
be urged on during March, much growth was not wished 
for in that month. The seed should nevertheless be in the 
ground, ready for the first call from April's sun and showers. 
In many parts of the West Highlands and Islands Spring 
work may be seen in our day in active operation well into 
the month of May. This the present writer believes to be 
a very bad habit. Given a too dry stunmer, a condition 
not unknown even in the Highlands, the yet red ground, 
but recently sown on account of the too late Spring work. 



WEATHER AND SEASON I.ORE. 105 

becomes parched, and a poor crop is the inevitable result. 
Were the growth far enough advanced to form a natural 
cover and shade to the ground, and the roots already gone 
deep enough in the soil, a subsequent dry summer would 
not be so harmful. There are of course exceptions to be 
allowed in all general rules. I,ow-lying land that cannot 
be effectively drained off the winter's slush and wet would 
necessarily have to be considered, and separately treated ; 
and a dry summer would not affect such land to the same 
extent in the manner described. 

479 An seanfhacal fada, fior ; 

Cha bhreugnaichear an seanfhacal. 
The old proverb, long proved true, 
Shall never be belied. 

480 An Inid, a cheud Dimàirt an deidh an solus 

Earraich. 
Shrovetide, the first Tttesday after the first 
spring moon. 

481 B'fhearr a chreach a thighinn do'n tir 
Na maduinn mhin 's an Fhaoilteach fhuar. 
Better a foray o'er the land 

Than a mild morning in cold February. 

482 Breac a mhuiltein air an àthar - 
Bidh la math a màireach ann. 
There is a dappled sky to-day. 
There will be a good day to-morrow. 

483 BÌ gu subhach, geamhnaidh, 
Moch-thrathach 'san t-samhradh ; 
Bi gu currachdach, brògach, 
Brochanach 's a Gheamhradh. 
In Summertime be cheerful, chaste. 
And early out of bed ; 

In wintertime, well-capped and shod, 
And be on porridge fed. 



I06 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

The above advice is attributed by some authorities 
to the Druids. Others give it a later origin, ascribing it 
to the famous " OUamh Muileach," Dr. John Beaton of 
Mull, who was physician to the MacLeans, and died in 
1657. The name Beaton in Mull is still known in Gaelic 
as Mac-an-leigh, son of the physician. One of the tribe 
settled in the Island of lyismore, and his family became 
hereditary Almoners to the Bishops of Lismore and Argyle. 
At a later date, and in deference to their then Superior, 
James Livingstone, Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland, 
who, in 1640, received from. Charles I. a fifty-seven years' 
lease of the temporalities of Argyle and the Isles, and of 
the tiends of the Kirk of Kilespic-Kerral in Muckairn, the 
" Mac-an-leighs " assumed the name " Livingstone " as 
the English equivalent of their name, although the Gaelic 
"Mac-an-leigh" and the Lowland "Livingstone" have 
nothing in common as regards origin and meaning. Hence 
the numerous Livingstones in the district of Lorn, Argyle. 
Off these Highland Livingstones was descended David 
Livingstone, the great Missionary-Explorer, whose fame 
has added lustre to the name. 

484 Cha lugha air Dia deireadh an làtha na 

thoiseach. 
The end of the day is no less in God's sight 
than the beginning. 
484aCia air bith mar bhios an sian 
Cuir an siol anns a Mhàirt. 
Be the weather what it will 
Sow the seed in March. 

This again insists on an earlier spring work than is 
sometimes practised. 

485 Cha do chuir Dia riamh beul chum an t- 

saoghal 
Gun a chuid fo chòmhair. 
God never sent a mouth to this world 
Without its portion having been provided. 



WEATHER AND vSEASON I.ORE. IO7 

486 Cha d' òrdaich Dia do '11 duine bliochd 
Da làtha clio olc. 

God ne'er fore-ordained two consecutive days 
So ill for the poor man. 

487 Cha'n eil port a sheinneas an Smeòracii 's an 

Fhoilteach 

Nach caoin man ruith an Earrach. 

For every song the mavis sings in February 

She'll repent e'er Spring be over. 

This implies that too early a Spring-like weather 
forebodes an unseasonable return of wintry weather, and 
the consequent destruction of a too advanced growth. 
Quite recently an old man and a young man were listening 
to the merr>^ carolling of what was apparently a young 
mavis of the previous year's brood. It was early in Febru- 
ary', and the young man remarked to the old man that it 
was strange to hear such merry bird-singing at such an 
unseasonable time. " Tuts," replied the old man, " that's 
only a j'oung mavis that never saw a spring before ! " 

488 Cha tig air crannaibh gu'n tig Càisg. 
No tree will bloom till Easter come. 

489 Cha tig fuachd gu'n tig Earrach, 

Ive gaoth-tuath 's le cruaidh ghaillionn. 
Cold will not come till Spring 
' Its north-wind hurricanes doth bring. 

490 Cha robh Samhradh riamh gun ghrian ; 
Cha robh Geamhradh riamh gun sneachd ; 
Cha robh NoUaig Mòr gun fheòil ; 

No bean òg le 'deòin gun fhear. 
There ne'er was summer without sun ; 

There ne'er was Winter without snow ; 
No Christmas without feast and fun, 

No maid co'itent "mthout her beaii. 



I08 GAElylC PROVERBS. 

491 Cha do sheid gaoth riamh nach robh an seòl 

cuideigin. 
No wind ever blew that did not fill someone s 
sails. 
E.P. — 'Tis an ill i&ind that blows nobody any good- 

492 Cho fad' 's a tlieid a ghaoth anns an dorns 

la Fheill-Brìghdè, 
Thèid an cathadh anns an dorns la Fheill- 

Pàdruig. 
Just as far as the wind enters through the door 

on St. Bride s Day, 
So far will the snow drift enter on St. Patrick's 

Day. 

493 Karrach fad an deigh Chàisg, 
Fàgaidh e na saibhlean fas. 
A long Spring after Easter 
Will leave empty hams. 

494 Eisd ri gaoth nam beann 
Gus an tràigh na h-uisgeachan. 
Listen to the mountain winds 
Until the streams abate. 

495 Faoilteach, faoilteach, crodh air theas, 
Gal is gaoir nitear ris ; 

Faoilteach, faoilteach, crodh am preas, 

Failte 's faoilte nitear ris. 

February, if cows in heat, 

Wailing, sorrowing, folk will meet ; 

February, if in woods they stay. 

Forward look to Summer gay. 

There are several other versions with the same import. 



we:ather and season lore. 109 

496 Feath Faoilteach is gaoth luchair 
Cha mhair iad fada. 

A February calm or a Dog Days' wind 

Never will he lasting. 
The various winds, according to their direction on the 
last day of the year portended the weather for the coming 
year as follows : — 

497 Gaoth deas, teas is torradli ; 
Gaoth an iar, iasg is bainne ; 
Gaoth tuath, fuach is gailHonn ; 

Gaoth an ear, meas air chrannaibh. oat-vtwj^/v 
To south winds, heat and plenty cling ; 
West winds fish and milk will bring ; 
North winds bringeth ^ales and snoze^ ; ■ /f i 
East winds mean more j fruit ^ill grow.j f^"^-*-^ 
Another is : 

"> 498 Geamhradh reòdhtaineach, 
Earrach ceòthaineach, 
Samhradh breac-riabhach, 
Is Foghair geal grianach, 
Cha dh' fhàg gort riamh an Alba. 
A frosty Winter, a misty Spring, 
A cheqiiered Slimmer following, 
A sunny Autumn with ripen' d corn 
Ne'er left Scotland famine shorn. 

499 Gabhaibh suipeir an soills' an la, 
Oidhche Fheill-Brighde ; 
Theirig an làidhe an soills' an la 
Oidhch' Fheill-Pàdruig. 
On St. Bride's Eve, supper in daylight, 
On Eve of St. Patrick's Day, go to bed in 



no GAELIC PROVERBS. 

500 Gaoth an iar gun fhrois 
Bidh e 'g iarraidh gu deas. 
A west wind without showers 
Will he seeking the soiith. 

501 Is e'n Geamhradh luath an Geamhradhbuan. 

The early Winter is the long Winter. 

502 Is e'n ceo Geamhraidh ni an càthadh 

Earraich. 
Winter mists portend Spring snow-drifts. 

503 Is fhearr aon la 's a Mhàirt na tri la 's an 

Fhoghair. 
One day in March is better than three days in 
Autumn. 

This must imply that one good Spring daj^'s work will 
give more than three day's harvesting, 

504 Is math an còcair' an t-acras, 
Is mairg a ni talcuis air biadh ; 
Fuarag eòrn a sal mo bhròig, 

Am biadli is fhearr a fhuair mi rianih. 

Hitnger a very good cook is, 

Woe to him who would food despise; 

This barley gruel in my shoe heel 

Is the best I've found in all my time. 

The original Gaelic lines here quoted are attributed to 
the Earl of Mar, who conunanded the Royal Forces at the 
first Battle of Inverlochy, in 141 1. Mar's forces were 
routed by Donald Balloch, of the Isles, and his Highland 
host, and the Earl was compelled for a time to live the life 
of a fugitive among the hills of Lochaber and Badenoch, 
Being in sore straits for sustenance, he approached a humble 
dwelling, inhabited by a lonely old man, whose condi- 
tion seemed to have been only a little better than that of 



WEATHER AND SEASON LORE. Ill 

the Earl. All he had in the waj^ of food was some barley 
meal, and he had not as much as a dish in which this could 
be prepared. But the Earl was starving, and necessity- 
knowing neither law nor convention, he took off one of his 
brogues (shoes), and made barley gruel in it. Having 
partaken of this homely fare, he expressed his gratitude to 
the old man b}^ reciting the foregoing lines. He also 
disclosed his identity', and he invited the old man to partake 
of his hospitahty if ever he found himself in the vicinity 
of Mar Castle. It is related that the opportunity did after- 
wards occur, and that the Earl w^as as good as his word. 

Even the waj^s of the raven, and what happens to it in 
adverse weather conditions, becomes the subject of a 
proverbial saying, and it is not, as Sheriff Nicolson says, 
without a note of solicitude for the ravenous bird, so 
frequently destructive when on its foraging expeditions. 

505 Nead air Brighde, ubh air Inid, 

Eun air Chàisg, 
Mar a bi sin aig an Fhitheach, bidh am bàs. 
A nest at Candlemas, an egg at Shrovetide, 
And a chic at Easter ; 
If by then the raven has not these, 
Death betide it. 

506 Oidhche Challuinn, bu nihàth cuilionn is 

calltuinn 
A bhi bualadh a chèile. 
On Hogmanay s Night 'twere well 
That holly and hazel were striking one another. 
This implies that a stormy night were wished for. 

507 Ri fuachd Calluinn, 's math clò òllainn. 
Ri fuachd Fheill- Brighde, fòghnaidh cis- 

fheart. 
hi January cold, clothe with wool ; 
Mixed stuff at Candlemas may be the rule. 



112 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

508 Reodhadh an lodain Ian. 

Freezing when floodpools are full {never 
lasting) . 

509 Reòthairt na Feill-Muire, 
Is boile na Feill-Pàdruig. 
The Lady Day Springtide, 

And blustering St. Patrick's Day. 

510 'San Earrach, 'nuair a bhios a' chaora caol 
Bidh am maoracli reamhar. 

In Spring, when the sheep are lean, 

The shell-fish will he fat. 
There is here a rather pathetic indication of the straits 
for subsistence to which the people were sometimes reduced 
in the so-called " good old days." It recalls the custom, 
at one time common, of bleeding the cattle of their blood 
for human food, also in the Spring, when they could not give 
milk. Probably this would be more conmion inland, where 
no shell fish could be found. 

511 Is minig a bha 'n donas dàicheil. 
The Devil was often attractive. 

512 Tha'n t-seamrag a pasgadh a còmhdaich 
Roimh thuiltean dòirteach. 

The shamrock is folding its garments 
Before heavy rain. 

513 Tha'n cat 's an luatli, tliig frasan fuar. 
The cat is in the ashes, cold showers are 

coming. 
Quite a common belief is that if a cat sits with its back 
to the fire it is a sign of coming snow. 

514 Tha'n deala a snàmh, thig frasan blàth 

roimh fheasgair. 
The leech is swimming, warm showers will 
come ere evening. 



WEATHER AND SEASON LORE. II3 

515 Tha'n seillein fo dhion, 
Thig gaillionn is sian. 
The hee has taken shelter, 

A storm and rain are coming. 

516 Tàirneanacli an deigh nòine, taimeanach 

an toraidh mhòir ; 
Tàirneanach roimh nòine, tàirneanach gort 

is fuachd. 
Thunder in the afternoon, peace and plenty ; 
Thunder in the forenoon, want and cold. 

517 Theid cathanach earraich 
Troimh bhòrd daraich. 

A Spring snow-drift 

Will go through an oak plank. 

518 Tha larach buain fhoid air an àthar, 
Ni e la math a màireach. 

There's the appearance of turf clearing in the 

sky, 
'Twill he a fine day to-morrow. 

519 Tha currachd air a bheinn 
Sud an t-uisg' a tighinn. 
The mountain has a cap on, 
There's the rain coming. 

520 Tha'n còmhachag ri bròn, 
Thig tuiltean òirnn. 

The owl is mourning, 
Floods are coming. 

521 Thig Dia ri aire 

'S cha'n aire nuair a thig E. 

God comes in distress, 

And distress goes when He comes. 

H 



PART IV. 

LAND AND I.ABOUR. 



I.AND AND LABOUR 

522 Is treasa tuath na Tighearna. 

The tenantry are stronger than the lord. 

5KENB tells us in his " Celtic Scotland," 
that the above saying must have 
originally read : " The tribe is stronger 
than the Chief." It is one of our oldest and 
best-known sayings, and it concentrates as in a 
nutshell the old Highland conception of the 
respective positions of Chief and Clansmen 
before the time when the feudal absorbed the 
clan or patriarchial system. To appreciate its 
force one must bear in mind that there is no 
proper Gaelic word for the English term 
" tenantry." The present-day equivalent, made 
use of here, viz., " tuath," meant simply a 
community of husbandmen, tillers of the soil, 
and generally understood as a peasant pro- 
prietory. Their so-called " lord," the Clan Chief, 
was their leader in war, when their common 
rights were in danger, and, sometimes, perhaps, 
when they tried to extend those rights at the 
expense of some other Clan, or community. 
The gospel here enunciated is delightfully por- 
trayed in the Gaelic Muse of " I^inn an Aigh " 
117 



Il8 GAEUC PROVERBS. 

{The Happy Age). The following verses from 
Mr. lyachlan MacBean's excellent English trans- 
lation gives a good idea of the whole : — 

When all the birds in GaeHc sang, 
Milk lay like dew upon the lea ; 

The heather into honey sprang, 
And everything was good and free. 

No tax or tribute used to fall 
On honest men, or any rent ; 

To hunt and fish was free to all, 

And timber without price or stent. 

There was then no distress or strife. 
For none were wronged, and none 
oppress'd. 
But everyone just led the life, 
And did the things that. pleased him 
best. 

This " happy age," if it ever existed, could 
only be applicable to the degree one would like 
to believe, to each Clan circle as a separate 
entity. Inter-Clan relations would, we may 
suppose, be different. True or not, and if true 
only to a limited extent, the fond belief in its 
erstwhile existence could not help having an 
influence for good on their descendents, some- 
thing for them to aspire to, to try and emulate. 
But notwithstanding appearances to the con- 
trary, this state of society did not imply the 



LAND AND LABOUR. IIQ 

principle of communism as preached to-day. 
The old proverb (found in its place elsewhere) 
says : 

" There is no partnership in women or in land." 
This breathes the very spirit of individualism, 
and that spirit is still ingrained in what may be 
termed the Highland body politic. It is indeed 
strongly asserted. The desire for individual 
rights is shown by the following : — 

It is easy to put him out, 
Whose own the house is not. 

Sustenance was described as " Teachd an Tir," 
" the yield of the land." While the behef that 
the produce of one's labour should be one's own 
individual property was strong, there was the 
equally strong belief that all natural produce, 
not the result of man's labour, whether fish, 
flesh, or fowl, was equally the property of him 
whose exertions procured the trophy, those 
exertions being accounted as equal to labour in 
the more accepted sense, and hence : — 

523 Breac a linne, slat a coille, 

Is fiadh a fireach, 
Meirle anns nach do ghabh 

Gaidheal riamh nàire. 
A fish from the river, a wand from the wood, 
And a deer from the mountain, 
Actions no Gael was at any time ashamed of. 



120 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

The idea of freedom here implied is very truly 
pictured by Wordsworth in his poem, " At 
Rob Roy's Grave." Wordsworth must have 
imbibed deeply of the prevalent Highland belief 
on the subject during his tour in the north. 
This individual "Claim of Right" to the land, 
so inherent in the Highlands, has been tacitly ad- 
mitted — even more, it has received Statutory 
Recognition in an Act of Parliament, " The 
Crofters' Act of 1886." Had the claims then 
admitted been in the nature of a claim for 
communal, instead of individual rights, there 
would never have been the recognition embodied 
in the Crofters' Act, because such a claim would 
have had no historical or traditional backing in 
support of it. Community of interest was 
nevertheless recognised, and practised to the 
only practical extent of the principle, and that 
was by co-operation in labour, in spring work 
and harvest work. This co-operation was inher- 
ent among all communities of small holders, and 
without it no small-holding community can 
flourish. It also implies the impossible position 
of an isolated smallholder. Hired labour he 
cannot afford, and co-operative labour is unget- 
able by him on account of his isolated position. 
Hence the non-success of many sparsely-placed 
new small holdings. Nevertheless, the love for 



I,AND AND LABOUR. 121 

a life on the land, for husband^, is inherent in 
the Celt, while his dash of Norse blood gives him 
his love of the sea, and a life on the ocean wave, 
in which he takes a leading share out of all pro- 
portion to his numbers in the homeland nursery. 

524 Am fear a ni obair na thràth, 
Bìdh e na leth-thàmh. 

He who does his work in time 
Will always have leisure time. 

525 Am fear is fhearr a chuireas, 
'Se is fhearr a bhuaineas. 

He who soweth best reapeth best. 

526 Am fear nach dean cuir 'sa Mhàrt 
Cha bhuain e 's an Fhoghair. 

He who will not sow in March 
Will not reap in the Autumn. 

527 Am fear nach cuir ri la fuar, 
Cha bhuan e ri la teth. 

He who will not sow on a cold day 
Will not reap on a warm day. 

5218 Am fear nach dean obair na gniomh 

Cha'n fhaigh e biadh air feadh nam preas. 
He who will not work or act 
Will ne'er find food on any track. 

529 Am fear nach dean treabhadh aig baile. 
Cha dean e treabhadh bho'n bhaile 
He who will not plough at home 
Will not plough where'er he roam. 



122 • GAELIC PROVERBS. 

530 Am fear a tha na thàmh, 

Tha e na leth-trom air an fhearain. 
He who is idle is a burden on the land. 

531 Airde na daileach is isle na h-àirde. 
The highest parts of the meadow 
And the lowest parts of the ridges. 

These were considered the choicest parts for arable 
land. It was, however, a beUef that left uncultivated the 
richest soil, the lower lying parts, because a knowledge of 
reclaiming by a system of drainage was not practised, 
perhaps unknown. 

532 Am fear nach treabh air muir 
Cha treabh e air tir. 

He who will not plough {labour) on sea 
Will not plough on land. 

533 Am fear a theid a gnà a macli le lion 
Gheibh e eun uaireigin. 

He who always sets his net 
Will get a bird sometime. 

534 Am foar nach dean baile air a bheagan, 
Cha'n airidh e air a miKoran. 

He who does not ivork the small farm 
Is unworthy of a big one. 

535 Am fear nach cuir snairnh 
Caillidh e a cheud ghreim. 
He who will not tie a knot 
Will lose his first stitch. 

536 Bheir fear beag a chuid as an talamh, 
Ma's toir fear mòr a chuid as an àdhar. 

A little man can take his share from the land, 
When a tall ma^i cannot take his from the sky. 



LAND AND I,ABOUR. 123 

537 Bidh mir a ghille grùnndail air gach meis. 
The industrious lad's morsel is on every dish. 

538 Diolaidh saothair ainfhiach. 
Industry pays debts. 

539 Dùnan math innearach 
Màthair na ciste-mine. 
A good dung heap 
Mother to the meal-cist. 

540 Caillidh am fear chadalach molt, 

Ach caillidh am fear cèilidheach mart. 
Sleepy fellow will lose a wedder, 
But gad-about will lose a coiv. 

541 Cha bhi toradh gun saothar. 

There will be no produce withoitt labour. 

542 Cha do shoirbhich dithis riamh air an aon 

chnoc. 

Two never prospered on the same hill. 

This is another illustration of the individualism 
ingrained in the Highlander. 

543 Cualach mor a ghillie leisg. 

The lazy fellow's big [bulky] load. 

544 Ceann mor is casan caola, comharradh an 

droch ghamhain. 
A big head on lean legs are the marks of the 
bad stirk. 



124 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

545 Biadh a thoirt do'n fhearain ma's tig an 

t-acras air ; 
F'ois a thoirt d'à ma fas e sgith, 
A ghart-ghlanadh ma's fhàs e salach, 
Comharran an deagh thuathanaich. 
Feeding the land before it gets hungry ; 
Giving it rest before it gets weary ; 
And weeding it well before it gets dirty, 
The marks of a good husbandman. 

546 Cha leasachadh air droch obair-làtha 
A blii fada gum toiseachadh. 

A late beginning will not mend a bad day'swork 

547 Caithidh bo ri bleothain, 
Agus each ri treabhadh. 

A cow will wear with milking, 
And a horse with ploughing. 

548 Fas a ghrunnd -air reir.an uachdrain. 
The yield of the ground will depend on the 

landlord. 
This may be interpreted in more than one way. At 
the time when coined it may have been a reproof at rack- 
renting and insecurity of tenure ; it may also imply bad 
factoring, the want of proper supervision, and a consequent 
impoverishment of the soil. 

549 Far nach be ni, caillidh an righ a choir. 
Where there are no cattle, the king will lose his 

rights. 
The foregoing is undoubtedly old, and belongs to the 
time before the days of unearned increment ; when all 
wealth was derived direct from the land. Riches were 
calculated according to the amount of live stock on the 
land, and a well-stocked land pre-supposes a well-peopled 
land. The King's means depended on the amount of 
tribute received, mainly in kind, from the tillers of the soil. 



LAND AND LABOUR. 125 

550 Fear a dol an àite fir, a fàgail an fhearain 

daor. 
Tenant replacing tenant leaves the land dear. 

There was no Crofters' Act, and the consequent fixity 
of tenure when the foregoing was first said. 

551 Feumaidh an talamh a chuid fhein. 
The land must receive its own portion. 

The rules of good husbandry, good cultivation, are 
much neglected, generally speaking, among small holders, 
and a more rigid supervision would be for the good of all, 

552 Ged is e'n duine an tuathanacli, is e'n t-each 

an saothraiche. 
Though the man he the farmer, the horse is 
the labourer. 

553 Is math an t-each a thoilicheas a mharcaiche. 
It is a good horse that pleases the rider. 

554 Is iomadh ni a chailleas fear na h-imrich. 
Many a thing is lost in the flitting. 

555 Is fhearr èiridh moch na suidh anmoch. 
Better to rise; early than sit up late. 

E.P. — Early to bed and early to rise. 

Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. 
Land-workers are proverbially early risers, and early 
at going to bed. 

556 Is fhearr Ian an dùirn de cheird 
Na Ian an driirn a dh'òir. 
Better a handful of craftsmanship 
Than a handftil of gold. 

557 Is toin gach tulaich 's an t-Samhradh ghorm. 
Each hill is a knoll in Summer green. 




126 GAEUC PROVERBS. 

58 Is olc a thig do shaor a bhi sàr-bhuileach ; 
Do ghobh' a bhi crith-làmhach ; 
'S do leigh a bhi tiom-chridheach. 
It ill becomes a carpenter to he heavy-handed ; 
A smith to he shaky-handed ; 
Or a physician to he tender-hearted. 

559 Is fhearr dichioll an duine laig, 
Na neo-shunnt' an duine làidir. 
Better the diligence of the weak man, 
Than the indifference of a strong man. 

560 Is fhearr sior obair na sàr obair. 

Better steady work than severe spurts of work. 

561 Is fhear siol caol coirce fhaotainn a droch 

fhearann na bhi falamh. 
Better small corn seeds out of had land than 
no seed at all. 

562 Is obair làtha toiseachadh. 

A beginning is a good day's work. 

563 Is buidheach Dia de'n fhirinn. 
The truth is pleasing to God. 

564 Fanaidh IV^oisean ri làtha. 
The Devil waits his day. 

565 Ivionmhorachd làmh, ach 's an inhèis. 

A multiplicity of hands except in the dish. 

A Tiree saying, implying that many hands are best for 
getting through work, except when round the dinner table 
— the more there were taking from the dish the less each 
portion would be. In those days all fed from a common 
dish that was not always over-flowing at the start of the 
meal. 



LAND AND LABOUR. 127 

566 I^asaidh ciall teine, cùmaidh rian baile ; 
Ach cha rnhair sliochd fir foille, no iochd 

math chum na cloinne. 
Sense will kindle a fire, method will keep a 

farm ; 
A traitor's offspring will expire, nor clemency 

even to the children. 

567 Obair an doill. 

The work of the blind. 

568 Obair gun bhuanachd, 

A cuir SÌ1 an talamh gun todhar. 

Profitless work, 

Sowing seed in unmanured land. 

569 Obair gun iarraidh, 
Is e fhiach a Iochd. 
Unasked for work — 
Its value is harmful. 

570 Obair is ath-obair. 

Work, and after-work {result of had workman- 
ship at first). 

571 Oidhche Shamhna 's a Gheamhradh, 

Theirear gamhna ris na laoigh; 
Oidhch' Fheill-Eoin 's an t-Samhradh, 

Theirear aighean ris na gamhna. 
At Hallowe'en, in Winter-time, 

Little calves big stirks will be. 
At St. John's Eve, i?i Summer-time, 

The stirks ivill bigger heifers be. 



128 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

572 Obair duine gun chèill, 
Dol gun airgead do'n fhèill. 
A senseless man's procedure, 
Going to market without cash. 

573 Oidhch' a-muigh is oidhch' a steach, 
Math nan caorach, is olc nan each. 

In to-night and out to-morrow, 
Good for sheep, had for horses. 

574 Se 'n èigin a chuir an earb thar an loch. 
Necessity made the roe swim across the loch. 

575 Se cleachdadh a ni teòmachd. 
Experience makes expertness. 

576 'Sann aig ceann na bhadhna a dh'innseas 

an tiasgair a sgeul. 
It is at the end of the year the fisherman tells 
his tale. 

577 'Se'n t-ullachadh ni'm buileachadh ; 

A treabhadh thig na sguaban, 
j A sguaban thig na h-adagan, 
1 A adagan na cruachan. 

Indtistry results will bring ; 

Ploughing brings the sheaves of corn ; 

From sheaves come stooks, and following 

Will come the stacks that fill the barn. 

578 Treabhaidh na daoidhean 's cha dean na 

saoidhean ach treabhadh. 
The wicked plough, and the just can but 
plough. 

" He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, 
and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" 
(Matthew v. 45). 



LAND AND LABOUR. I29 

579 Togaidh an obair an fhianuis. 
The work will hear witness. 

A proverbial justification of piece work in the labour 
market. 

580 Turasdal a cheaird, paidheadh roimh-laimh. 
The tinker's wages — paid beforehand. 

581 Turasdal na circe — Ian a sgròban. 

The hen's wages — her cropful. 

582 Tuitidh ton eadar da chathair, is taigheadas 

eadar dhà mhuinntir. 
The seat falls between two chairs, and house- 
keeping between two families. 



PART V. 

THE FINGALIANS. 



THK FINGAIvIANS. 

THE traditional reputation of the Fin- 
galian heroes of the Gaelic race, as 
evidenced in the proverbial sayings 
about them, shows that there was a culture and 
a nobleness of character beUeved by the Gaelic 
people to have been associated with them that 
is in agreeable contrast to the might is right 
gospel so evident in the vaunted warriorship 
associated with Attila of the Huns, for instance. 
With the latter, the term culture, spelt with 
an aggressive capital " K," is profligated to 
mean nothing more, and nothing less, than 
efficiency in every art for getting the better of 
one's neighbours, unencumbered by moral con- 
siderations. Our GaeHc legendary heroes are 
shown as corresponding in character and domestic 
misfortunes with the legendary King Arthur — 
" faithful to their friends, generous to their 
foes, mighty in war, and gentle and wise in peace." 
Whatever may be the authenticity of the Poems 
of Ossian, those who are the heroes of their 
eulogies, and the subjects around whom their 
narratives are woven, are not the creation of 
133 



134 GAHUC PROVERBS. 

James MacPherson, the reputed and the disputed 
author of the Poems. Their names are on 
record by Barbour, whose story of The Bruce 
was written hundreds of years before MacPher- 
son's time, and the information to be obtained 
regarding them in our Gaehc Proverbs is evidence 
of their legendary existence before the pubHcation 
of the Poems. 

Those heroes are presented to us in the 
Proverbs as worthy warriors of a warHke age. 
The following one enumerates to us what were 
considered as the respective fighting qualities 
of the six leading Fingalians : — 

(i) Agh Fhinn. FingalVs fortune, or luck. 

(2) lyàmh Ghuill. Gaul's hand. 

(3) Bras-bhuillean Oscair. Oscar s impetu- 

ous strokes. 

(4) lomairt ealamh Osein. Ossian's deft- 

ness. 

(5) Ruith chruaidh Chaoilte. Coilt's swift- 

ness. 

(6) Suidheachadh Chonain air a Chath. 
Conan's planning of the battle. 

Characteristics worthy of respect are implied 
in practically all the proverbs associated with 
those heroes, and that are singularly illustrative 
of virtues not usually associated with the pagan 
age to which they belonged. 



THE FINGALIAXS. 135 

583 An Fheinn air a h-uillinn. 

The Fingalians on their elbows. 

The traditional origin of the foregoing is as follows : — 
The Fingalians were being held spell-bound in a cave 
which no one knew of. At the mouth of the cave hung a 
horn, which, if any one should come and blow it three times, 
the spell would be broken, and the Fingalians would rise 
alive and well. A hunter one day wandered through a 
mist until he came to the cave, saw the horn, and under- 
stood what it meant. Ivooking into the cave, he saw the 
Fingalians lying asleep all round. He seized the horn, and 
gave it one blast, and then took another look at the Fin- 
galians, who had awoke at his blast, but with their eyes 
looking at him with a vacant stare. Giving the horn 
another blast, the Fingalians instantly moved, each one of 
them resting on his elbow. Terrified at their aspect, the 
hunter fled homewards. He told what he had seen, and, 
accompanied by friends, returned in search of the cave. 
But they could not find it, and it has never since been 
found. As a consequence, the tradition is that the Fin- 
galians are still there, each resting on his elbow, waiting 
for the final blast that will rouse them into life. Another 
version of the tradition locates the incident as having 
happened at Tomnahuirich, Inverness. In this story it is 
added that on the hunter running away he heard the 
Fingalians calling after him, and saying : " Thou wretched 
foolish man, thou hast left us worse than thou found us." 

584 Bha dorus Fhinn do'n ànrach fial. 
Fingal's door was free to the needy. 

585 Beatha Chonain a measg na'n deamhan : 
Ma's olc dhà, cha'n fhearr dhaibh. 
Conan's life among the demons, 

If had for him, for them no better. 
Conan is reputed to have been the only disagreeable 
one among the principal Fingalian characters. He is 
called, in Ossianic literature, Aimslig na Feinne, The 



136 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

Fingalian Mischief Maker. He is said to have visited 
Ifrinn (Hell) in search of some of his departed friends, and 
gave as good as he got to the friends when there. Sir Walter 
Scott picked up the story and made use of it in Waverley, 
where Mrs. Flockhart asks : " And will ye face the tearing 
chields, the dragoons, Ensign MacCombich? " "A claw for 
a claw, as Conan said to the deils," answered M'Combich. 

In " Leabhar na Fèinne," The FingaHan's Book, in 
what is termed Urnuigh Osein, or Ossian's prayer, there is a 
good example of the old Highland hospitahty. The 
incident is recorded as having been in the nature of a 
dialogue between Ossian and St. Patrick. 

St. Patrick — Cia beag a chùil chrònanach. 

Is mònaran. na grèine. 
Gun fhios do 'n Righ IMhòralach 

Cha teid o' bhil a sgeithe. 
Though small the humming insect he, 

Or shadow seen athwart the sun, 
Unknown to the All-highest king 

Naught can their courses run. 

Ossian. — 'N saoil thu b' ionnan e 's mac Cumhail ? 

An righ bha againn' air na Fiannaibh ? 
Dh'fhaodadh gach neach a bha air thalamh 

Teachd na thall-san gun iarraidh. 
Thinkest thou thai he was equal to 

Our king, the son of Cumhail ? 
All on earth might enter free, 

And unhidden to his halls. 

586 Cha d'thug Fionn riamh blàr gun chumhan. 

Fingal never fought a fight without offering 
terms. 

587 Coram na Feinne. 

The f airplay of the Fingalians. 
This last is one of the most frequently quoted proverbs 
in our own times. It demands honourable dealings between 
man and 'man. 



THE FINGAI.IANS. 137 

588 Cho laidir ri Guchuillin. 
As strong as CuchuilUn. 

The story of CuchuilUn, and the description of him in 
his chariot, in the First Book of MacPherson's " Fingal," 
is observed by Nicolson as leaving no doubt that he, at 
least, was not the creation of MacPherson, but that the 
original was Gaelic, and old. 

589 Cho laidir ri Garbh, Mac Stairn. 

As strong as Garbh, the son of Starn. 
" Garbh " is Gaehc for strong, and is a Gaelic name said 
to have been given to a Scandinavian champion who figures 
in MacPherson's Ossian. 

590 Cho cuimseach làmh ri Connlaoch. 
As unerring of hand as Connlaoch. 

Connlaoch, according to tradition, was the son of 
Cuchuillin, an Ossianic hero who was brought up at 
Dunsgathaich, in Skye. The ruins of this dun, or fort, are 
still shown. This hero's story is said to form one of the 
finest pieces in MacPherson's Ossian. 

591 Cha do threig Fionn riamh caraid a làimh 

deise. 
Fingal never forsook his right hand friend. 

592 Cia faisg clach do'n làr, 

Is faisge na sin cobhair Choibhidh. 
Though near is a stone to the ground, 
Nearer than that is Coivi's aid. 

593 Fear nach do chuir cùl ri caraid no ri 

nàmhaid. 
One who never turned his back on friend or foe. 

594 Fuil mo nàmh cha d' dh'iarr mi riamh, 
Na'm bu mhiann leis falbh an sith. 

The blood of my enemy I ne'er did seek, 
Were he but willing to depart in peace. 



138 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

595 Ine air son iiie, a Chonain. 
A claw for a claw, Conan. 

E.P. — .4 Roland foy an Oliver. 
See also No. 585. 

596 Is buaine dùthchas na oilean. 
Hereditary gifts are better than acquired ones. 

597 Is fad an eigh 'o lyochòdha, 

Is cobhair 'o Chloinn Duibhne. 
'Tis a far cry from Lochawe, 
And aid from Clan Duine. 

By Clan Duine the Clan Campbell are meant, the 
former having been their original designation. The saying 
is the war-cry of the Campbells. Tradition says that it 
was first " cried " by them at a time whea they were hard 
pressed in a conflict with the Gordons, in Aberdeenshire. 

598 Na sir, 's na seachan an an cath. 
Neither seek nor shun the fight. 

599 Na tarruing mi gun aobhar, 
'S na pill mi gun chliù. 

Do not draw me without cause, 
Nor sheath me without honour. 

600 " Theab, 's cha d'rinn," cu bu mhiosa a 
bha riamh aig an Fheinn. 

" Almost, but didn't," — the worst dog the 
Fingalians had. 

601 Rughadh shuas an am laidhe, 

Dh'èireadh Fionn modi 'sa mhaduinn; 
Rughadh shuas 'sa mhoch-mhaduinn, 
Dh'eanadh Fionn an ath-chadar. 



THE FINGALIANS. 139 

With a rose in sky at eventime, 
Fingal, he would rise quite early ; 

But with a rose in sky at dawning, 
He would sleep until late morning. 

" When it is evening ye say, ' It will be fair weather, 
for the sky is red ;' and in the morning, ' It will^be foul 
weather to-day, for the sky is red and lowering.' " (Matthew 
Chapter xvi., verses 2 and 3). 



PART VI. 

ST. COLUMBA AND OTHBR SAINTS. 



ST. COLUMBA AND OTHER SAINTS. 

Achlasan Chaluim Chille. 
Gun siorradh gun iarraidh. 

" Achlasan " is a word difficult to translate in the 
sense made use of here. Literally it means anything being 
conveyed under one's arm. St. Columba's Achlasan is a 
Gaelic for St. John's wort, although sometimes the term 
used is : 

Lus Chaluim Chille. 
St. Colitmna's herb. 

The traditional story associated with the herb is that 
if it be found unexpectedly and unsought for, the ensuing 
year will be a lucky one to the finder. 

602 Sgoiltidh farmad na'n creag. 

Envy {or covetousness) will split the rocks. 

The traditional origin of the saying is to the effect that 
on St. Colmnba being observed carrying a cheese-sha.ped 
stone, an onlooker, believing the Saint's burden to be the 
real eatable article, which it so much resembled, he devoured 
it with his eyes, so to express it. The saint, divining the 
extent of the fellow's covetousness, caused the stone to 
split in two, and fall to the ground, where the curious one 
was allowed to examine it to his chagrin. This is on a par 
with many of the other miracles attributed to St. Columba, 
but the saying is based on the tradition which was at one 
time, it maj^ be supposed, believed in by many very good 
folk. 

603 lyà Fheill Eoin 's an t-Sanihradli 

Theid a chuthag gu' taigh Geamhraidh. 
On St. John's Day, in Summer, 
The Cuckoo goes to her winter home. 

143 



144 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

604 lyà Fheill MacCheasaig bidh gach easgann 

torrach. 
On St. Kessock's Day every eel is pregnant. 

St. Kessock's Day is the 31st of March. St. Kessock 
was one of the early saints, and from his name is derived 
the name M'Isaac, erroneously taken as of Jewish extrac- 
tion by the uninitiated. The letter " K " is an interloper 
in Gaelic words, being foreign to the Gaelic Alphabet, 
In this case it represents the hard Gaelic " C," in Maclosaig, 
eclipsing the initial " i " of the substantive losaig, thus 
taking the Anglicised forms of M'Isaac, M'Kissack, etc. 

605 I/à Fheill-Brìghde thig an ribhinn as a toll. 
On St. Bride's Day the nymph will come out 

of its hole. 

The original Bridget, or Bride, the Dana of Celtic 
Mythology, was, in pagan times, the goddess of fire, and was 
supposed to be represented by the sudden glow and strength 
so noticeable in the sun in early Spring. She had many 
additional and lovable attributes, and all were transferred 
in the popular beUef to her Christian successor, the Bridget, 
or Saint Bride of Ireland and lona. She is depicted as 
being of transcendent beauty, glorious folds of long, yeUow 
hair being a special feature. The handsome black and 
white bird, known in English as the Oyster Catcher, is 
caUed in GaeUc " Gillie Brighdè," " Servant of St. Bride," 
and its re-appearance every due season was regarded as a 
sure sign of the approach of Spring. 

It would seem as if there was some Saint's name 
associated with every stage in the advance of the seasons, 
and with the first seasonal movements of bird and beast. 
By " ribhinn," or " nymph," referred to in the last quoted 
saying there is meant the adder, the term being a depre- 
catory one, according to Nicolson. It is probably a corrup- 
tion of niomhair, a term for the serpent implying " the 
venomous one." All adders were beUeved to come out of 
their winter holes on St. Bride's Day. 



ST. COLUMBA AND OTHER SAINTS. I45 

606 I^à Chaluim Chille chaomh, 
Ivà bu choir a bid deilbh ; 
L/k chuir chaorach air seilbh. 
On dear St. Columba's Day, 
The warp should be put to use, 
And sheep sent to pasture. 

St. Columba's Day is the 9th of June. 

607 I/US Phara liath, cuiridh e ghniomh as a 

cnaimh. 
Grey St. Patrick's wort (grundsel) 'twill drive 
pain from the bone. 

608 Tuilleadb ùir air Odhrain. 
More earth on Or an. 

Tradition says that when St. Cohmiba was founding 
his rehgious establishment in lona, he received divine 
intimation that one of his companions would have to be 
buried alive as a sacrifice necessary to the success of the 
undertaking, and that St. Oran offered himself, and was 
duly interred. On the third day St. Columba had the 
grave opened in order to see how St. Oran fared. As soon 
as he was uncovered, and he was able to open his eyes, the 
resurrected saint expressed himself as follows: — 

609 " Cha'n eil am bàs na iongantas, 
No Ifrinn mar a dh'aithrisear." 

" Death is nothing wonderful, 
Nor is hell as it is said to be." 
St. Columb ', shocked at such sentiments, exclaimed : — 

610 Uir, tiir, tuilleadh tiir air Odhrain, 
Mas labhair e tuille còmhraidh. 

Earth, earth, more earth on Oran, lest he say 
more. 

A Tiree version of the above is as follows : — 

K 



146 GAELIC PROVERBS. 

611 Chan eil an t-eug na annas, 

'S cha'n eil Ifrinn mar a thuirtear, 
Cha teid math am mùgh, 
'S cha bhi olc gun dioladh. 
Death is nothing strange, 
Nor is hell as has been said; 
Good will never change, 
Nor will evil be unpunished. 

Part of the tradition is that Oran used to dispute with 
St. Columba about the torments of the future, and that he 
held much laxer views. There is, however, no record of 
a St. Oran being a companion of St. Columba. The only 
one of the name on record is mentioned in the " Annals of 
the Four Masters," an ancient Irish MS., where he is 
stated to have died in the year 548 A.D., fifteen years 
before St. Columba came to Scotland. His burial place, 
known as Reilig Odhrain, is in lona, which would indicate 
a religious community there before St. Columba's time. 
It is quite well-known that there were several such in 
Scotland before the coming of St. Columba, and that they 
were founded by St. Ninian and his disciples. The saying, 
" Tuilleadh ùir air Odhrain! " is to-day a polite way of 
saying " Shut up ! " 



PART VII. 

CLANS AND CLANSHIP. 



CIvANS AND CI.ANSHIP. 

50MK of these sayings were evidently 
first said about themselves by members 
of the Clans concerned, which leaves 
what truth there may be in them at a heavy 
discount ; there are other sayings as evidently 
coined by one Clan in dispraise of another, and 
the amount of truth in these may be discounted 
in equal measure. Readers must judge for 
themselves as to which Clan was best at blowing 
its own horn. The time when such sayings 
were in use is now so far off that we can quote 
many of them with a smile. 

There is one satisfaction about them, and it is 
this — ^that where dispraise is most intended, 
abuse or coarseness of expression are conspicuous 
by their absence. lyct the sayings then speak 
for themselves. 

612 An t-uasal an I^eathaineach, 

'San ceathaimeach an Raonalach. 

The gentleman of the Clan MacLean, 
The warrior of the Clan Ranald. 

613 An cinneadh mòr, 's am pòr mì-shealbhach. 
The great race, and the unfortunate progeny ^ 

Said of the Macl^eans by themselves. 
149 



150 GAEIylC PROVERBS. 

614 A dh'aindeoin co theireadh e. 
Despite who would gainsay it. 

This is the Clan Ranald motto. 

615 A h-uile fear a theid a dholaidh, . 
Gheibh e dolar bho inhac Aoidh. H/ 

Every man who's down in luck 
Will get a dollar from MacKay. 
Said when the Chief of the Mackays was raising men to 
fight in the wars of Gustavus Adolphus, where he and they 
made themselves famous. The saying shows that the 
derogatory attitude of the community towards army 
rankers is of older growth than is generally supposed. 
Within our own times soldiering has become quite respect- 
able from the social point of view, but not so long ago it 
was considered the harbour for all ne'er-do-weels. 

616 Amhlaireachd Chloinn-Mhic-Phillip. 
The absurd play of the MacKillops. 

617 Bho'n se is ni do Chloinn 

Neill na doirneagan, 
Gabhadh iad do'n ionnsaidh. 
As the property of the MacNeills consists of 

pebbles, 
Let them take to them. 

618 Cha bhi gean air Granndaich gus am faigh 

iad lite. 
Grants are never gracious till they get their 

porridge. 
Something similar is said in the proverbs about the 
Campbells, the Gunns, and the MacKenzies. 

619 Cha robh balach riamh de Chloinn Griogair, 
No caile de Chloinn-an-Aba. 

There never was a clown of the MacGregors, 
Or a hussy of the MacNabs. 



CI.ANS AND CI^ANSHIP. 15I 

620 Camaranaich bhog an ime is sliomaran a 

chaise. 
The Camerons — soft as butter and fawning 
for cheese. 

621 Cha'n ann a h-uile la bhios mod àig Mac-an- 

Toisich. 
It is not every day that Macintosh holds a 
Court. 

The Macintosh here referred to was not the Mac- 
Kintosh of MacKintosh, Chief of the Clan Chattan, but one 
of the hereditary tòiseachs (Chamberlains) to the Earls of 
Perth, who held the lands of Monyvaird as a perquisite 
of their office. Tradition says that one of their number, 
in order to make himself famous, and to strike terror into 
the hearts of thieves, used to arrange for one being adjudi- 
cated upon and hanged each day, whenever a batch of them 
could be held in custody. Hence the saying, implying 
that culprits were not always on hand. 

622 Clann Diarmaid nam busa dubha, 
Cuiribh riùtha is beiribh oirre. 
The black-mouthed MacDiarmids, 
Go at them, and catch them. 

623 Clann Fhionghain nam faochag. 
The MacKinnons of the wilks. 

624 Cinnidh Clann Fhearchair gus an teicheamh 

linn. "^ 

The Farquharsons will flourish till the tenth 
generation. 

625 Clann Mhic Codruim nan ròn. 
The Clan MacCodrum of the seals. 



152 GAEUC PROVERBS. 

y^ 626 Cnuic is uillt, is Ailpeinich, 

Ach cuin' a thainig na h-Artairich ? 
Hills, and streams, and Mac Alpines, 
But when came the Mac Arthurs. 
This implies that the MacArthurs were considered to 
have been of pre-historic origin. » 

^ 627 Mac Cuaraig najti Join, ill^HK L.^^ 

Chuir e cuaich air à bhròig. 

Kennedy of the meadows, 

He's put his shoe out of shape. 
The Highland dress requires a man being shapely in 
all parts to show it off. An ungainly figure never will 
become it. Gaelic song, descriptive of personal attractions, 
is very insistent on shapely limbs, and trimly-shod feet 
were particularly noticed, both helping to add distinction 
to the dress. 

628 Cho fad 'sa bhios craobh 'sa choill' 
Bidh foill 's a Chuimeineach. 

As long as trees are in the wood 
There will be treachery in the Cummings. 
.» The Campbells and the MacPhails .are characterised 

in the same way. The treachery of the Red Comyn at 
the time of King Robert the Bruce would probably have 
originated the saying in regard to the Cummings. 

629 Comhdhaltas gu ceud, is càirdeas gu fichead. 
Fostership to a hundred, and blood relation- 
ship to twenty (degrees). 

Sheriff Nicolson says : — " This emphasises the closeness 
of ties that existed under fosterage in the Old Highlands." 
It is admitted to have been without parallel anywhere else. 

630 Co ris a ni mi mo ghearain 

'S gun Mac-Ic-Ailein am Mùdairt. 
To whom can I make my complaint, 
And no Clan Ranald in Moidart? 



CI^ANS AND CLANSHIP. I53 

The origin of this saying was the situation caused by 
the death of Clan Ranald at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. 
Before leaving home at that time, the 1715 campaign, 
Clan Ranald set fire to the old Clan stronghold of Castle 
Tirram, in Loch Moidart, in order to prevent the possibility 
of its falling into the hands of the Campbells in his absence, 
or in the event of his death. From that time forward the 
Clan Ranald Chiefs made their abode in other parts of 
their wide domains, principally at Castle Ormaclate, in 
Uist. The severance of the Clan Ranald Chiefs from their 
Moidart clansmen in this manner was the cause of the 
saying, with its ring of pathos. 

631 Cho fad 's a bhios monadh an Cinn-t-sàile 
Cha bid Mac Coinnich gun àl 's a chrò. 
So long as there are moors in Kintail, 
MacKenzies will not want for cattle in the 

pens. 

632 Casan tiorram Chlann-an-tòisich. 
The Maclntoshs' dry feet. 

633 Cho fad 's a bhios Frisealaich a stigh 
Cha bhi MacRath a muigh. 

So long as there's a Fraser inside, 
A MacRae will not he left outside. 

The above saying is said to have been inscribed on the 
lintel over the entrance to the original Castle of the Chiefs 
of the Frasers. The tradition associated with it is to the 
effect that although the MacRaes have been for generations 
holding their hands in Kintail off the Chiefs of the Mac- 
Kenzies, and serving under the Seaforth Chiefs whenever 
they went to battle, doubtless on all such occasions as 
a self-contained entity, and immediately under a Ceann- 
taighe of their own, as their separate tartan would indicate, 
their original territory was in the Fraser cotmtry, on the 
Airds of lyovat, their allegiance at that time being to the 
Fraser Chiefs. On account of some signal services rendered 



154 GAEI.IC PROVERBS. 

to the Frasers by the MacRaes, the Chief of the Frasers 
caused the above saying to be inscribed over the front 
entrance to his Castle. 

634 Co dhà bhios MacMliathain gu math, 
Mar bi e dha fhein. 

To whom will Matheson he good, 
If not to himself ? 

635 Dalt Mhic Phillip, a dol am feathas 'sam 

feathas. 
MacKillop's foster child, getting better and 
better. 

636 Fear eil' air son Eachan. 
Another for Hector. 

When Hector Roy MacIyean,of Duart, fell at the Battle 
of Inverkeithing, in 1652, several members of the Clan fell 
whUe guarding their wounded Chief. As each one replaced 
another, he did so with the cry " Fear eil' air son Eachan," 
" Another for Hector." 

637 Fadal Chloinn an Tòisich. 
The delay of the Macintoshes. 

638 Ged a tha mi bochd, tha mi uasal 
Buidheachas do Dhia is ann do Chloinn 

Illeathain mi. 
Though I am poor, I am high-born ; 
Thank God ! I am a MacLean. 

639 Is caomh le fear a charaid 

Ach se smior a chridhe a cho-dhalt. 
Affectionate is a man to his friend. 
But a foster-brother is as the life-blood of his 
heart. 



CI.ANS AND CI.ANSHIP. 1 55 

640 Iveathaineach gun bhòsd, 
Dòmhnullach gun tapadh, 

Is Caimbeulach gun mhor-chuis, 

Tri nithean tha aineamh. 
A MacLean without boast, 
A MacDonald without cleverness, 
A Campbell without pride — 

Three rarities. 

641 Stiùbhairtich, cinne nan righ 's nan ceàird. 
Stewarts, the race of kings and tinkers. 

The name was commonly adopted by tinkers for the 
same reasons that induce Jewish moneylenders to adopt 
some of our most aristocratic names — mercenary motives 
and the desire for respectability. 

642 Sliochd nan sionnach Cloinn Mhàrtainn. 
Race of the foxes, the Clan Martin. 

643 Spagadagliog Chloinn Dòmhnuill, 
Agus leòm nan I^eathainich. 

The MacDonald swagger, 
And the MacLean airs. 

644 Tha fortan an cuideachd nan treum. 
Fortune favours the brave. 

This is the motto of the Clan MacKinnon. It is illus- 
trated in " Campbell's West Highland Tales " by the 
following story : — Once upon a time, a great man was 
getting a sword made. The smith's advice for the perfect 
tempering of the blade was that it should be thrust red hot 
through the body of a living man. A messenger was to be 
sent for the sword upon whom it was agreed that the 
experiment should be made. The man sent was overtaken 
by a thunderstorm, and took refuge until it passed. Mean- 
time the Chief sent another messenger for the sword, and he, 



fiuAwIgs U\fc-A '\^'' 



^: 



156 GAEI.IC PROVERBS. 

unheedful of the storm, duly arrived and asked for it, 
whereupon the arranged for plan for tempering the blade 
was performed upon him. Subsequently, the first messen- 
ger, who had prudently taken shelter on the way, arrived 
at the smithy, got the sword, and took it to his master. 
The great man was astonished to see him, and asked where 
he had been. The messenger told what had happened to 
him, and hence the reply of the Chief, and the traditional 
origin of the saying. 

645 Theid duthchas an aghaidh na'n creag. 
Kinship will withstand the rocks. 

646 Tha uaisle fo thuinn an Cloinn I^achain. 

There is hidden nobleness in the Clan Lachlan. 

647 Tha e mar a bha cat Mhic-Aoidh, 
Fhathast 's an fheòil. 

He is like MacKay's cat — still in the flesh. 

648 Teoidhidh feòil ri finne, ged nach deòin le 

duine. 
Flesh will warm to kin, even against a mail's 
will. 



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